Can Mediation be used for Post-Divorce Agreements?

After a divorce is finalized, life goes on and people adjust and move on. Circumstances will inevitably change, and challenges and unexpected difficulties will arise. Ex-spouses get remarried, jobs and income levels can change, a job or another circumstance may take parents and children to another geographic location, health issues come up, and other issues may arise that your divorce decree did not cover.

When a material change in circumstances happens down the road or your ex-spouse is just not cooperating with the terms and conditions of the original divorce settlement or decree, post-divorce mediation can be an effective and cost-efficient way to resolve these issues.

Most post-divorce issues can be worked out through mediation. Some of the most common include:

  • Financial Changes: There are many circumstances that can cause material financial changes. People change jobs, run into health problems, and sometimes become disabled. As children grow up, their financial needs change as well. Financial changes may call for a modification of the child support and/or spousal support arrangements, and maybe other changes as well.
  • Parenting Schedule Changes: As kids get older, they often get involved in various extra-curricular activities. These activities can affect the time parents are able to be with the children. Parents’ schedules may also change because of a new job or another obligation. These types of changes may require parents to revisit the parenting/visitation schedules.
  • Out of State Relocations: A new job or another circumstance may require one parent to move out of the area. This can often become a very contentious issue as it is almost certain to affect the parenting schedule, especially if it is the custodial parent who is moving.
  • Communication Problems between Parents: Sometimes, parents just have difficulty communicating with each other. Virtually every conversation turns into a heated conflict, and parents are not motivated to communicate much at all anymore. This causes breakdowns such as a child not being picked up from school, missed doctor’s appointments, and similar problems. In such cases, mediation may be needed to help improve communication between the parents.
  • Ongoing Business or Financial Relationships between Ex-Spouses:  Some spouses who get divorced still have shared financial interests. One of the best-known examples of this is the Bezos divorce, in which the wife retained ownership of a significant percentage of Amazon stock. If you and your spouse own a business together and/or have shared investments, it is important to sit down and work out a formal agreement for how your shared financial interests will be handled post-divorce.

The Advantages of Mediation for Post-Divorce Agreements

Mediation can be a refreshing change from going through litigation (that often leaves parties with bad feelings) or even negotiating settlements through legal representatives. The process is done in a cooperative rather than combative setting, and it is guided by a skilled, third-party mediator whose goal is to bring the parties together to develop a win-win resolution that works for everyone.

There are several reasons those who have been through a divorce often prefer mediation when it comes time to revisit issues between the ex-spouses and other parties:

  • Creative Solutions: It is the nature of family courts to impose cookie cutter solutions to family legal matters. But each circumstance is different, and the issues that come up are as unique as those individuals who are dealing with them. With mediation, you are able to talk through these issues between yourselves and the mediator, and you are free to be creative and think outside the box when developing a resolution.
  • Confidentiality: The mediation process is entirely private and confidential, and everything that is discussed is kept between the parties and out of the court record. This allows parties to speak more freely and exchange ideas more openly without fear that something they say might be used against them later on.
  • Cost Savings: Going back to court for some type of post-decree modification usually means hiring lawyers, scheduling hearings, and/or negotiating back and forth at whatever hourly rate your legal counsel is charging you. If you handled your divorce this way, you know how quickly these costs can add up. Mediation can usually be done for a fraction of what it would cost to bring your issues back before the court.
  • Convenience: In addition to cost savings, mediation can usually be completed much sooner than a court proceeding. It is done on your schedule rather than the court’s, and it can be done in a location that is most convenient for the parties involved. You can even do virtual mediation if the parties are unable to meet together in the same physical location.
  • Control: Although the mediation process is guided by a neutral third-party mediator, participants are ultimately in control of the outcome. The process is entirely voluntary, and no agreement can be enforceable unless all parties agree to it. This means no one has the power to impose anything on you that you don’t want; and because of this, participants are far more likely to take ownership of whatever is ultimately agreed upon and abide by it.