Mom v. Dad
Parenting and Property Disputes
Mediation Case Study
– Case Description
Divorce can take an enormous toll on a family, especially children. There are many issues to resolve in a divorce that kids don’t always understand, and instead feel cought in the middle between mom and dad.
Most divorces can be disected to three different disputes, that all affect each other: Support obligations for one particular ex-spouse, settlement on the separation of property or assets, and agreeing on a parenting plan.
It’s no secret that these items are related. More time with one parent in the Parenting Plan, could mean more money in support for that parent, or less of an obligation to pay support to the other. Who keeps the marital residence could create a presumption that that parent should get more time with the child or children so as to promote stability. These interrelated disputes can take months if not years to resolve legally, with temporary solutions offered by a Judge or Magistrate that only last a few months. Courts may order Parenting Coordinators that charge fees in the thousands of dollars to assist the parents in developing a parenting plan.
Mediation can offer divorce litigants the oportunity to sit down and develop their own plan, over one or several sessions, that is based on their own choices after removing the emotion associated with the divorce in general.
Mom and dad were married for 12 years. During their marriage, they had two kids which are no 7 and 9. They also owned a home they had purchased when they got married, with a mortgage that had about 18 years left to pay off. They also owned two cars, both in dad’s name. Mom had quit her job 9 years ago, to focus on raising the kids.
Two years before coming to mediation, mom and dad decided they wanted to get a divorce. Dad kept paying the mortgage, and moved into an apartment near the home so he could be close to the kids. Mom was very emotionally affected by the separation, and blamed dad for the failure of the marriage. Disparaging comments had been made by mom in front of the children regarding dad and his new girlfriend.
Dad consulted a lawyer 6 months after their separation, and filed divorce papers in Court to commence the process. Mom then hired her own lawyer to represent her in the process.
During the course of the two years prior to mediation, they each spent over $10,000 on legal fees each. Mom, who was being helped financially by her grandparents, could no longer afford the mortgage payments, and dad, who was in the process of purchasing a home with his new girlfriend, could no longer afford to pay it, although he was still financially responsible for the loan.
There were many issues that had been decided by the Court, but the issue that came before me was that of the Parenting Plan. Mom had now started working part time, and their current plan was not working for her. However, if she gave up some of her days, or modified to change the pickup and drop off times for dad and her to exchange time share with the children, she ran the risk of changing the child support guidelines as they had been approved by the Court, and causing the children instability, or emotional distress resulting from further financial problems.
Dad had his own issues with the Parenting Plan they had in place. It seems Mom had not honored their agreement with regard to several holidays, and, dad’s birthday a few months before the case was referred to me.
These were two good parents, that cared for their children, but the “business” of divorce had made them spend more money than they had to on legal fees, and their agreement was still not working.
After several hours of separate discussions with each parent, I was able to assist them in coming up with an amicable solution, which respected each parent’s needs which had changed. Further, we were even able to come up with some financial options that assisted mom while she began her new job, but gave dad more time with the kids, instead of having to seek childcare assistance from a third party.
Lack of communication delayed what could have been a speedy positive result for all.
The parties settled some of their issues with minimal Court intervention, and saved legal fees.
Mom and Dad were able to understand each other's current situation, and resolve their dispute amicably.
The parties resolved issues that were outside of the scope of mediation, as they were communicating effectively.
Mediator helped facilitate communication between the parties.
Mom and Dad were extremely thankful, as were both their attorneys, in the environment of respect, communication and compassion that was present during the mediation. Sometimes all it takes is a third party to bring us back to reason, and help us realize what we are really arguing about, and how it impacts others.
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