When you enter divorce mediation, the ultimate goal is to create a divorce settlement that both you and your ex-spouse can live with. This legally binding document lays out important agreements for asset division, spousal support, child custody, and child support. These four simple categories belie the complexity of the thought, discussion, negotiation, and even inventory and documentation that go into crafting a strong settlement. Below, we’ll go into more detail on each section.
The division of property is a cornerstone of divorce settlements and usually cannot be changed after the divorce is final. Typical types of property include real estate, vehicles, bank accounts, and investments. However, to ensure your interests are protected and the division feels equitable, it’s important to dig deeper and inventory items like:
● tools and other equipment
● artwork and collectibles
● technology and entertainment systems
● cemetery plots
● retirement accounts
● term life insurance
● and benefits from previous employers like stock options and deferred compensation plans.
Cataloging such assets can be challenging. In complex cases, some turn to accountants or financial managers to help them understand the worth of the marital assets, what is community property and what is not, and the tax implications of how the property will be divided. A properly trained and experienced mediator will walk you through the process and help you determine whether a financial specialist is needed.
2. Spousal Support
Splitting one household into two can be an expensive process. If one spouse earns significantly less, is a stay-at-home parent or elder caregiver, is retired, or put their career or education (and earning potential) on the back burner while the other climbed the corporate ladder or pursued a professional degree, spousal support will need to be discussed and agreed upon.
Typically, you need to consider each party’s budget and ability to earn after separation when negotiating spousal support. Whether you expect to be the payer or the recipient, it will be helpful to enter mediation with an amount of money and an amount of time in mind. This gives you a place from which to start the discussion. If you’re not sure where to start with this, don’t worry. An experienced mediator will explain the guidelines that are used to help determine a fair spousal support arrangement.
3. Child Custody
Negotiating a child custody agreement is often the toughest part of divorce. You must put your personal differences (and anger and hurt) aside to determine what will be best for your children for many years to come. This includes who the children will primarily live with (the custodial parent) or whether this will be equally shared between two households; how visitation, holidays, and vacations will work; how to deal with costs for schooling, healthcare, activities, and clothing; and how you will work together when important decisions arise.
It is particularly important to take a long view on these issues. Much can change during the course of a child’s upbringing. One parent may want to move farther away. New costs, such as braces and college, come up. One or both parents may remarry and build larger families. An experienced divorce mediator can help you navigate this minefield and plan for seemingly distant “what if” scenarios to help prevent changes to the custody agreement later.
4. Child Support
Similar to the child custody agreement section, creating an agreement for child support requires looking at needs both today and five, 10, or 15 years into the future. Daycare costs will eventually cease, only to be replaced by music lessons or a laptop for school. The custodial spouse may need a larger home or be unable to work full time. And while spousal support may only last until the recipient finishes their degree, remarries, returns to the workforce full time, or some other agreed-upon stipulation, children must be supported until 18 and often through college. Plan for expected changes as well as potential situations like unexpected loss of income.
While it’s impossible to conjure a crystal ball to show you every change the future may bring you, your ex-spouse, and children, an experienced divorce mediator with hundreds of divorce settlements under their belt may be the next best thing. We watch for overlooked details and can build solid divorce settlement agreements that anticipate common life changes. When circumstances shift, you’ll be already prepared.
Join us for a free consultation today to learn how we can help settle your divorce — and prepare you for the future.