Professional Mediation Since 1990
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Dealing with Financial Issues in Mediation

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Posted 03/23/2017 09:59:07
Category: Divorce Mediation

If you are considering divorce, it is probably overwhelming to think about how to divide up your life. It's probably tempting to just get attorneys and let them work it out. No doubt about it, divorce is overwhelming. But hiring an attorney may not solve the problem.

After years of marriage it is not uncommon for separating couples to have a broad and diverse financial picture and for one spouse to have a better understanding of that financial picture. In mediation, the entire financial picture is placed on the table. As in the rest of the mediation, both spouses are present for the financial information sharing process where source financial documents are reviewed together with me. Often the financial information sharing process also becomes an educational process where the assets and liabilities are described and explained to each other. I  help guide the information and explanation process – this can be a challenging time for both the spouse who is familiar with the finances as well as the one who isn’t. Spouses are then in a position to create, review, and consider options that make the most sense for their future and that put their available resources to best use.

In preparing for mediation, all financial information should be the most current available and should be based on the source documents - in other words, don't transfer the info to an excel spreadsheet and then leave the source doc's at home. If a spreadsheet helps you organize, fine, but I'll want to see the source documents.

The next question is, “What happens next after we have shared our current financial information with each other and the mediator in mediation?”

Then comes the planning stage. What do you envision for your future? Where will you live? Where will your children live? How will you afford to pay your bills? How will your children spend time with each parent? How will you divide your financial assets and liabilities? How much child support and spousal support will you pay or receive? Those questions, and many others, need to be asked and answered as we develop a mutually acceptable plan for the future.

I tell all my clients that it doesn’t matter where we begin the discussion about the plan. There is no right or wrong place to start. All the questions I mentioned are interrelated to all the other questions. We may start discussing when the children will spend time with each parent and realize that those decisions are dependent upon answering the question about where each parent is going to live which may in turn require an answer to how much money will be available to pay living expenses and so on. I suggest it will be my job to ensure that the resulting plan is a thorough and comprehensive one.

I then invite the discussion to begin on the topic that feels most pressing for either person. It may be most pressing because it is time sensitive – who will pay next month’s mortgage, for example. Or it may be emotionally pressing, one of the parents may feel the need to know that he or she is going to see the kids on a regular basis and what that schedule will be. Sometimes the pressing concerns are the result of misinformation or emotional outbursts that occurred in the days and months when the marriage was falling apart. For example, it’s not uncommon for a client to tell me that his or her spouse said something like, “If you keep acting the way you have been, I’ll move away and you’ll never see the kids again.” Or “I’ll never pay you a dime in alimony.” Or “The house is in my name and I’m kicking you out.” Those fears are best addressed early. So I encourage each spouse to suggest the topic or topics that are currently on the top of his or her mind. I also remind them that it’s to be expected that the early discussion may take turns and move into related topics and that’s ok - it'll all come together in the end.

 


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