You are worn down, tired of arguing, tired of feeling confused and uncertain about a prospective settlement. You feel “done.” You have no reserves left to haggle or to compromise. Your request to “end it all,” your giving up or giving in is all to common. Reaching agreements is difficult in the best of circumstances; reaching agreement in divorce is especially draining – emotionally and financially.
Separation and divorce are not happy times; regardless of whether you are one who wants to divorce, there is sadness for unfilled dreams and hopes; there are fears of an uncertain future as a single individual. Yet despite all the inner calls to end it, to move forward, it is important to make sure that your final settlement does not leave dangling ends that may well lead to returns to legal counsel and in particular, returns to court. Lawyers are used to going to court, negotiating/litigating modifications are standard; it is part of their job description. But you, you who has thrown up your arms and said, “stop,” will not find returns to the negotiation table a welcome outcome, not to mention the inevitable emotional and financial costs.
At the Centre for Mediation and Dispute Resolution, we strongly suggest that you mobilize your psychic energy in order to fashion an agreement that does not leave unfinished and undone a “host” of possible events/developments that can be dealt with now. Legal counsel may advise that the future us unknown and that there is no need to plan for an unknown future. Yes, the future is unknown. Yet, just because we do not know if something will happen does not mean that we do not include provisions for its possible eventuality. Life is full of planning for an uncertain future — that is why we have auto insurance, home insurance, and health insurance, just to mention the obvious.
To help you in your planning and structuring of a settlement that is futuristic in nature, we have listed for your consideration a small sampling of issues/topics related to potential happenings. Please consider the following:
The list can go on and on. In mediation many of the questions stated above are simply broached and resolve as part of the mediation. As such when you discuss support, be it alimony and/or child support, the mediator should raise future concerns as part of the general discussion. An agreement that set a specific amount for, say, child support and does not consider any of the other costs or events that may require modification of support sum is doing his/her clients a disservice.
It is clearly the responsibility of the mediator or your attorneys to guide you in the creation of an agreement that is equitable and reasonable now and in the future. No one should be afraid to think ahead, to raise “what if” questions. The danger is not in raising the question or fashioning a response; the very real danger is in the omission of thoughtful present and future considerations that will clarify life for all involved parties.