Post-divorce issues are common among couples who have had litigated and lawyer-negotiated divorces. Approximately 50% of couples who use the adversarial process return to court to resolve issues. Typically, at least one of the parties is dissatisfied with the outcome. Other times, with judicial rulings, both parties may feel aggrieved, believing justice was simply not served.
The litigated route is by far the most complicated path. Both parties lose control of the process, allowing attorneys and judges to determine their future, not infrequently hurting all family members (not just the couple divorcing). Lawyer-negotiated divorces may result in an agreement but might not be effective for future collaborative parenting.
Mediating a divorce is a non-adversarial approach. It takes conflict outside the legal arena into a private, comfortable and confidential setting conducive to identifying needs, airing concerns and solving problems under the facilitation of a neutral divorce mediator.
If divorce agreements do not fully address specific family issues, couples either have to return to court or try to resolve their issues by other means. Couples who mediate their divorce are far more likely to adhere to their agreements and therefore when change occurs are better able to work together, or return to mediation to resolve the problem.
Money is the most common impetus for returning to court. In January of 2009, Massachusetts’ revised Child Support Guidelines, coupled with the downturn in the economy, led to a dramatic upswing in post-divorce court appearances.
Then, too, not to be forgotten is the long-time favored reason for court reappearances – the children. As children grow, their needs and wants change. A divorce agreement which does not address these changing issues is dependent on cooperative parenting for adaptation. Where collaboration is absent, the court serves as the arbitrator. The following issues are commonplace:
Teenage children who rebel against parenting schedules
College financing and selection
Traveling out-of-the-state or country with friends, a parent, or grandparents
Public or private school issues
Most divorce agreements ignore future problems, providing no help with a conflict-solving process or attention to specific anticipated changes.
At the Centre for Mediation & Dispute Resolution, we are acutely aware of future family issues. In our mediation process, we provide our clients with the option of incorporating a formal process for handling future conflict. Perhaps as important, mediation, as a process, teaches couples how to interact, as individuals, with the common goal of collaborative parenting. Naturally, the best outcome is one in which parents are able to work together throughout their children’s lives to resolve conflicts, as they arise, as well as to enjoy the privileges and pleasures of parenthood.