Tailoring Mediation to Your Needs: Three Stories

divorce mediationIn previous posts, we’ve talked about different ways to structure divorce mediation based on various factors. Some of these factors include complicated financial scenarios,  family home issues, and child custody disputes. Potential power imbalances or high degrees of conflict between divorcing spouses are also important concerns. Over the next few months, we will introduce three couples, each of whom is dealing with one or more of these issues. Their stories are fictional, but the couples possess multiple characteristics of actual clients. If you have some things in common with any of these couples, you may be able to use their experiences as a blueprint for how to move forward with mediation in your own divorce.

Each of our three couples has a unique set of issues, but they also share certain features. There is significant income disparity between the spouses in each case, which is likely to impact claims for alimony and property distribution. Each couple has some variation of a retirement asset issue. Two couples have marital versus separate property issues. One has a child custody dispute. The degrees of conflict and balances of power vary among all three couples.

In our next few posts, we will take a closer look at how mediation might work to resolve these issues for each of these couples. Now let’s meet them:

Katherine and Julian

Katherine and Julian are both 33. They have been married for 6 years, and they have no children. Julian blames Katherine for the breakdown of the marriage, because she recently confessed to a 6-month affair with a co-worker. Katherine says the affair is over; she feels terrible about it, and she wants to try to repair the marriage. Julian, however, is very angry, and says he is done. He does not want to mediate, he says, “because I do not even want to be in the same room with Katherine!”

Katherine is a pharmaceutical sales rep who earned over $100,000 last year, including bonuses. Julian is a chemist who earns approximately $55,000 per year. They live in a home that Katherine purchased on her own approximately one year before their marriage. It is currently worth about $350,000, with a mortgage balance of $150,000. It is still in Katherine’s name, even though she and Julian have been sharing household expenses and mortgage payments since their marriage. Between them, they have savings and investments totaling about $20,000. Katherine also has a 401k with a balance of $80,000, which she started contributing to before marriage. Julian has a SEP IRA with a balance of $20,000, which he opened during the marriage.

Eric and Eva

Eric is 40 and Eva is 43. They have been married for 15 years and have two young children, ages 10 and 12. Eva blames Eric for the breakdown of the marriage. She describes him as a “workaholic,” who has long been disconnected from the family. She says she may as well have been a single parent given how little time Eric has spent with the children, and she is adamant about having full custody. Eric does not deny that he has not spent much time with the children up to now, but he wants to change, and he is insisting on joint custody.

Eric is a corporate attorney earning approximately $200,000 per year at one of the few companies that still offers a defined benefit retirement plan. Eva is an artist with a fluctuating income. She has averaged about $30,000 per year over the past few years. They live in a home with a current value of about $450,000, which they purchased during their marriage. There is a mortgage balance of about $150,000 on the home. They also have joint savings and investments of $100,000. Eva has no retirement savings in her own name, but during the marriage, she received an inheritance of $150,000 from her father, which she has kept in a separate investment account.

Gerry and Beth

Gerry is 62 and Beth is 61. They have been married for 35 years and have three adult children. They have gradually grown apart. Beth says that they now lead completely separate lives. She wants a divorce, so that she can spend her retirement years “in freedom.” She is planning to retire next year and wants to move to New Hampshire to be closer to their oldest daughter and two young grandchildren. Gerry is not yet ready to retire, and he says that when he is, he is moving south, not north. His main reason for waiting is that, “we don’t have nearly enough money saved to fund our current lifestyle in retirement.” He does not want the divorce. He says that if Beth wants to “be free,” that is her choice, but she isn’t going to leave him and also take his money and his house.

Gerry currently earns about $150,000 per year as a CEO. Beth was a stay-at-home mom for 10 years when their children were young, and she now earns $60,000 per year as a teacher. They live in a home purchased during the marriage. It has a current value of about $450,000 and no outstanding mortgage. They have joint savings and investments of $50,000, and Gerry has a 401k with a balance of approximately $800,000. Beth will be eligible for a teacher’s pension which will provide her with about $22,000 per year if she retires next year.

Can Mediation Help These Couples?

Stay tuned for more details about our three couples. We will examine how each of them approaches their divorce and tries to make a decision about whether or not mediation can help them achieve positive results.

Are you interested in talking to one of our experienced mediators about how to structure your own divorce mediation? Contact us today for an initial consultation.