Mediation “Minutiae”: Loose Ends Can Unravel Your Divorce Settlement

If you’re considering divorce mediation, it’s important to select an experienced mediator. New York has surprisingly few requirements for certification as a family law mediator. So, if you are only considering the cost, it’s easy to wind up with someone who is just starting out or doesn’t have any kind of legal background. A novice mediator might only treat the issues you and your spouse bring up and overlook the ones you haven’t considered, while an experienced mediator is familiar with the issues spouses often miss and will bring them to your attention. We call those items “mediation minutiae,” and they include:

  • Specific items of personalty — Personal property can have emotional value and cash value. But how do you balance the two? Suppose there are collectibles. The husband bought them for the wife thinking they’d make a nice gift, but they’d also have cash value if the couple was ever financially strapped. In that sense, they are not entirely sole property even though they were gifts. But how much, if anything, should be charged against the wife for keeping items of such great sentimental value if she never intends to sell them?
  • Informal loans — Suppose, years ago, you borrowed money from your relatives to help you move into your new home. You’ve paid some back, but there’s still a balance. Both of you benefited from the loan, but you were the one who negotiated it with your relatives. How much of the balance should your spouse be obligated to repay? What kind of repayment mechanism should you put in place?
  • Co-signed contracts — You and your spouse each have a car, but you co-signed the lease or loan agreements. It’s easy to say, “You take your car and I’ll take mine,” but how do you modify your agreement with the lender, who can enforce responsibility for each car against both of you?
  • Furnishings — You bought your furniture together, but now you have an additional residence to consider. Do you split the furnishings? If the party who keeps the residence gets the furnishings, does the party who moves out get consideration in the division of other property? How much? If that party moves into a furnished apartment, does that change the equation?

There are also larger concerns that may be too complex for a mediator with limited experience to manage, such as:

  • Credit card debt
  • Retirement accounts
  • Liquidation of property

If you let issues slip through the cracks, or trust a mediator who is not up to the task, you can wind up on the wrong end of a very bad bargain. Solutions Divorce Mediation, Inc. has skilled attorney and no-attorney mediators with extensive divorce experience. If you’d like more information on how divorce mediation can work for you, call Solutions Divorce Mediation, Inc. at 1.631.683.8172 or contact our Long Island office online.

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