How mediation can help you craft an agreement tailored to your needs
Part II: Giant steps
In Part I we talked about a couple who felt more comfortable working through their agreement over the course of a year and implementing steps little by little. Part II deals with another couple who, unlike the first couple, preferred to get their final agreement done in much less time.
Bob* and Judy* came in for a 30 minutes free consultation following a quick phone call that I received from Judy to set up the appointment. They had found my name on the internet and wanted to meet with me and find out how quickly they could get an agreement done. They did not want to spend much time nor money and wanted to move forward with their lives.
Twenty minutes into the consultation, they looked at each other, and then asked if they could start that same night. They felt it would be less painful for them to jump into the process as quickly as possible and get it done. It was the end of the day and since I had no later appointments that evening, we got to work.
First session – 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm.
Bob and Judy had two young children. They were both employed, each had a retirement account, and bank accounts, some of which were joint and some separate. Bob had health insurance for the family and a life insurance policy through his job. They owned the apartment in which they lived, had one car and a cat.
I explained to both of them all the different issues that would have to be worked out and included in their divorce agreement. They chose to start discussing the sale of the apartment, its pricing, the preparation for the sale, the division of the proceeds, and other related issues.
That conversation led to defining the area where they would both live which would be close to the school attended by their children and make the shared parenting time easier for all. They also touched upon how they wanted to set up the week/weekend schedule with the children.
When they “came up for air”, 3 hours had gone by. Bob and Judy were amazed that they were able to actually talk about and work on these very stressful, at times anxiety producing issues.
They scheduled their next appointment for the following week and decided that they wanted another 3 hour session so that they could move along. I gave them some homework to prepare for the next session and suggested they try to work out more of the parenting plan including the holidays. I also asked them to put together a file with all their financials.
Second session – 5 pm to 8 pm
Between sessions, Bob and Judy had started a dialogue on their own about sharing the holidays and vacations but were encountering difficulties resolving those issues. With the use of an easel and different color marker pens representing their separate times with the children, we created together a visual schedule which gave them a better understanding of how they would share those days. The later part of the session was devoted to child support which proved to be easier than they thought it would be.
Third session – 5 pm to 8 pm
This session which took place within the same week as the previous one was all about the financial aspects of their agreement. We also covered some loose ends that needed to be tied.
At this point, Bob and Judy had spent a total 9 hours in mediation within 2 weeks and felt they had covered everything. I proposed to prepare the draft of their agreement and we scheduled a meeting to go over it together and review all the different points.
Fourth session – 5 pm to 7 pm
Bob and Judy went through the whole agreement, point by point. Some corrections were made, and some minor points clarified. I sent them the 2nd draft by email and they had their agreement.
Bob and Judy felt they had run a marathon but truly they were relieved that they were able to get the agreement done in less than a month. Though some moments were tense, some emotional, some sad, they were able to work together. They realized it was very important that they learn to communicate and make decisions together for themselves and for the benefit of their children,.
The last step was to get the document reviewed by their separate attorneys and get it turned into a legal document which would then be filed in the court for their soon to be divorce to come through.
Whether baby steps or giant steps, Mediation allows a couple looking to divorce to create an agreement that works for everyone in the family and do it at their own pace. Fast or slow, the results allow a couple and/or family to move forward in a mutually satisfying way.
*names have been changed
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jennifer safian. divorce and family mediator divorce and family mediation upper east side of manhattan (nyc) new york, ny (212) 472-8626 firstname.lastname@example.org connect on