When we last saw Derek and Stacey in installment No. V of our ongoing divorce mediation series, they were in the middle of their third mediation session. They had completed an accounting of their assets and debts and worked out values for both the family home and Derek’s accounting business. They had also reached agreement regarding how to divide the home value into separate and marital property. When they reached a discussion of their debts, however, things became tense. Let’s rejoin them after their 15 minute break, and see if they can reestablish the amicable tone they achieved earlier in the session.
“To sum up what each of you said before the break,” begins Ms. Smith, “Stacey proposed that Derek take on more of the joint credit card debt because he was the one who made more purchases. Derek didn’t think this would be fair because it’s joint debt, and he will already be in a weaker financial position coming out of the marriage. Stacey specifically mentioned that Derek purchased a pool table without consulting her. Does that sound right so far?”
Stacey and Derek agree on the summary. “There’s more though,” Stacey adds. “There are more things that he bought on his own.” As Derek begins to protest, Ms. Smith suggests that he let Stacey go ahead with her list, and then give his perspective when she is finished.
“Okay,” Stacey continues. “He also bought an $800 playhouse for the kids, and a $3,000 big screen T.V. Not to mention lottery tickets every week, and more beer than I could possibly imagine.”
At this Derek can no longer remain silent. “That’s low Stacey. Should I start talking about all the clothes and shoes you bought? And those other things were Christmas gifts. I didn’t consult you because they wouldn’t have been a surprise otherwise.”
Stacey shook her head. “You just don’t get it Derek. You just don’t get how money works…”
“Okay,” interrupts Ms. Smith, “You two managed to set a really collaborative tone early on, so please let me remind both of you that making things personal now is probably not going to help you get back to that. Do either of you have any ideas about how to move on from here?”
“I do,” Derek answers, “I’ll just take the pool table and the T.V. with me, and I’ll take on the $4,000 that those things cost plus half of whatever is left. I’d be happy to take the playhouse too, but I doubt that I’ll end up with anywhere to put it. I’m going to have enough trouble figuring out what to do with a pool table and a giant TV in my tiny apartment.”
Stacey looks unhappy, but finally agrees. “Let’s just move on then,” she says. “I don’t want to fight anymore.”
“Great!” says Ms. Smith. “We’ve accomplished a lot today. Do you want to keep pushing forward? Or should we wait and look at child support and alimony next time we meet?
No, let’s keep going, says Derek. I want to go ahead and look for a new place to live, so I would really like to get as much as possible settled today.
Stacey agrees. “Let’s just take another break and keep going. I want to get this wrapped up too.”
“Okay,” says Ms. Smith. “As we’ve been talking, I’ve made up some charts for you. You’ll see that Stacey is going to end up with a bit more due to the separate property value in the house, but since she also has separate debt, the difference won’t be as great as it may have seemed originally. Why don’t you take a look at these during the break, and let me know if you have any questions when we come back.”
Ms. Smith prints out the following charts and hands them to Derek and Stacey [click to enlarge]:
In our next installment, our participants will briefly discuss these charts, and then move on to talk about income, expenses, and child support.
To read more about Derek and Stacey’s experience with mediation, find the beginning of the series here: Divorce Mediation up Close and Personal – Derek and Stacey, Part I.
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