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Monthly Archives: June 2013
By Dr. Lynne C. Halem, Centre for Mediation & Dispute Resolution
The media is endlessly fascinated by the divorces of couples with long-term marriages. From Maria Shiver and Arnold Schwarzenegger and Al and Tipper Gore, the celebrity divorced set, to demographers’ estimation of the significant increase in divorce and separation among the general population of those in the fifty-plus age bracket, the stories keep coming. In part the fascination is related to the breakup of long-term marriages. People wonder why, after so many years of living together, individuals would even bother to divorce. Adult children are among the most vocal, perplexed and often angry, they decry their parents divvying up of assets after forty years of marriage. Why now, they ask? What’s the point? And, too, are we now responsible for taking care of mom? Of dad? Others, more detached from the actual divorce, worry on a national level about the increase in the elderly population living alone with assets and income already diminished by divorce.
We, too, at the Centre for Mediation and Dispute Resolution, are witnessing a rather dramatic surge in baby boomers and even older individuals who are now seeking divorce. Since mediation does not, and should not, delve into the reasons for a marital dissolution, we cannot shed any light on the causations of this trend or, in fact, help to explore its implications for society or for the delivery of social services to the elderly with diminished resources and no partners, as caretakers. Our focus is different. We, as mediators, need to consider the financial needs of the soon-to-be newly divorced and the ways in which resources can be stretched to finance living in two households. It is important to recognize that divorcing parties need to be “smart,” to really consider the impact of their financial decisions in order to structure an agreement that capitalizes on tax advantages, that analyzes the impact of future changes and options. A “cookie cutter” agreement may be quicker and even cheaper, but in all likelihood it will not help to provide long-term protections.
The Intersection of Divorce Law and Mediation
Westfield Mediation, LLC
If you filed for divorce, can you still do mediation? If you go through divorce mediation, do you still need a lawyer? We commonly hear these questions from potential clients. And the answers, for the most part, are yes, and yes.
Once you file a divorce complaint, you start the Court clock running. If you decide instead to try divorce mediation to save you and your spouse some time and money, you can pause the clock, so long as you inform the Court and your lawyers. Usually, the Courts prefer that people resolve their differences on their own, so they are happy to give you the time to do so, as long as you keep them informed of your plans, and you don’t let things drag on too long. If you and your spouse have started working with lawyers, those lawyers would not be able to mediate your divorce because of potential conflicts of interest. So you would need to find a divorce mediator to help you create an agreement.
What if you start with divorce mediation – would you still need to hire a divorce lawyer? Most likely, yes. Once you and your spouse have come up with an agreement in mediation, we recommend that each of you hire a “review attorney” to look over the document, make sure your legal rights are protected, and explain any of the legal consequences to you. The “review attorney” will then convert your agreement into the form that the Court wants, file the documents with the Court, and accompany you to the Court hearing. Many lawyers will do these tasks for a set fee, rather than their usual hourly rate.
So, why go through mediation if you will still need to hire a lawyer? Because divorce mediators…