Once a divorce is over, one of the many feelings a person feels is relief that the long, difficult and emotional process is finished. However, even long after a divorce is finalized, circumstances can still come up that require you and your spouse to revisit the terms of the divorce. These issues usually arise as the result of a change in circumstances, such as:
● A change in your job or income.
● A change in health insurance coverage.
● A change in your child’s education.
● An illness or other change in the medical needs of you or your child.
● A change in you or your spouse’s marital status.
Changes to the divorce agreement often have to be approved by the court. While changes can be made through traditional litigation, post divorce mediation is a quicker, less expensive, and more cooperative process that can help you and your spouse reach a mutually beneficial new agreement.
What is Post Divorce Mediation?
Divorce mediation is a process where two spouses meet with an impartial third party, a professional mediator, to discuss and resolve the many aspects of a divorce agreement, such as child custody and the division of assets, without the use of lawyers or a lengthy court battle. While an entire divorce can be resolved this way, mediation can also be used for any issues that arise after the divorce is finalized, even if the original divorce was settled through litigation. This is referred to as post divorce mediation. Mediation gives couples more control over the process and creates a positive, constructive environment. Many couples choose divorce mediation if they are amicable and able to work together to come to important decisions related to the divorce.
What Issues Can Be Resolved With Post Divorce Mediation?
Post divorce mediation can address any of the points that were decided on during the original divorce that now need to be adjusted due to a change in circumstances for either spouse or the couple’s children, including:
● Child Support Modification. Child support arrangements can be changed after a divorce if there is a change in one spouse’s income or the needs of the child. Mediation can help you and your spouse discuss the issue and come to a decision that is in the child’s best interest.
● Child Custody Modification. Child custody arrangements may need to change as time goes on, for example if one parent is planning to relocate or there is a serious issue with the current arrangement.
● Alimony Changes. Alimony, or spousal support, can be modified after the divorce if circumstances change for one or both spouses. For example, the receiving spouse might get remarried or no longer need the support.
● Modifying Parenting Time Agreements. Parenting time agreements, also called visitation, come in many forms. There is supervised and unsupervised parenting time, and a wide range of schedules that the parents may follow. For example the child can alternate spending one week at a time with each parent, or more. Depending on the family’s schedule and the needs of the child, the couple may want to alter the parenting time schedule through mediation.
● Relocating to Another State With a Child. As mentioned above, parent relocation is a complicated issue in child custody. The courts will typically examine the reasons for the move and whether it is in the best interest of the child. Mediation gives the couple a chance to weigh this important decision themselves.
● Allocating College Costs. Couples often seek mediation to decide who will contribute what to their child’s education, including tuition, books, room & board, transportation, and other issues.
Does Mediation Work for Changing a Legal Separation Agreement?
Legal separation, sometimes referred to as ‘limited divorce’ or ‘divorce from bed and board,’ is an alternative to divorce where the couple separates while still being legally married. Couples who believe they can still reconcile, want to remain eligible for healthcare and insurance benefits, or object to divorce for whatever reason often choose this option. Just like in a divorce, couples who opt for separation come to a legally binding agreement regarding all aspects of ending their marriage, and can use mediation to resolve any issues that come up after it is finalized.
Benefits of Mediation for Post Divorce Issues
For post divorce issues that need to be addressed, mediation has several benefits over a typical court proceeding, including:
● Time. Traditional court proceedings for post divorce changes can end up taking a long time, whereas mediation is a much quicker process. Usually, the more in agreement the couple is about the changes that need to be made, the quicker the mediation will be.
● Expense. Because mediation is faster, requires only one mediator instead of two attorneys, and usually does not involve retainer fees, it is a considerably cheaper option for post divorce proceedings.
● Atmosphere. Mediation encourages peaceful and cooperative resolution, and makes changing a divorce agreement a much more positive and less adversarial process that will be easier on your, your spouse, and your children.
Is Post Divorce Mediation Right For Me?
Professional mediators are trained in helping couples work through their issues in a calm, non-adversarial way. However, the mediator can only do so much for couples who cannot be civil or agree on anything. Mediation works well for couples who are organized, goal-oriented, and ready to cooperate and be respectful of each other. If you and your spouse are willing to work together to reach a decision on changing part of the divorce or legal separation agreement, post divorce mediation can be a positive and constructive process that benefits everyone involved.
By Steven B. Menack Divorce & Separation Mediation