They signed off on an agreement that they both acknowledged was some kind of deal by the attorneys, hand-written on the courthouse steps when the clients ran out of money.
And so here they are. They have lots of post-divorce issues that should have been resolved in their settlement agreement but weren’t, and NOW they are coming to mediation.
This is much more difficult because now we have to try to undo a bad agreement. Had they come to mediation first, since these issues existed when the agreement was drafted, we could have resolved them. But NO, they went to litigation.
I started writing on my easel:
- What are the issues?
- Let’s talk about them and see how each of you feel about them.
- What is most important to you?
Once we wrote everything down and began talking, I saw they were being very reasonable. So I asked:
“Why were you in litigation for so many years?”
They admitted: “We had come to a verbal agreement before litigation.”
“Why didn’t you tell your attorneys that you think you could work this out?”
“The attorneys told us not to, that we shouldn’t speak to each other, and that they would handle everything.”
“So what about the kids, and college?”
Their reply? “We spent all of the college funds on litigation.”
“How are you going to pay for the kids college education?”
“Well, we can’t. We have no money left.”
In about an hour and a half, all the issues were resolved. They were very reasonable. They said: “This mediation process is terrific. Too bad it wasn’t available when we first started our divorce.”
Recently, I spoke to an attorney friend and asked him if we were ever going to see mediation as a first step in the divorce process in the court system, as is done in many other states. His reply:
“Ha, not in your lifetime!“
I said, “But I plan on living to be 100.”
He said, “That’s not long enough!”