Whether you’re at the start, middle or end of your separation or divorce, and you have just started to investigate mediation we know that it’s an incredibly difficult journey and it’s easy to feel like no one has been through what you are going through right now. This is why we have decided to share some real life mediation examples of couples who started out in the same seemly impossible situation, but with mediation were guided to resolution. We hope this helps.
——Please note all names and ages have been changed to protect the privacy of our clients—–
CASE STUDY 1. FAMILY WITH 2 CHILDREN
Anna and Tom were married for seven years before their separation and had two children: Milly aged 4 and Sam 18 months. Anna and Tom both agreed the marriage was over but neither was willing to move out of the family home. Tom had received legal advice but Anna hadn’t taken that step yet. When they came to mediation it was clear both parents were confused and angry but they were also concerned about their two children.
After the pre mediation sessions with HSM Anna and Tom had a framework to prepare for their joint mediation session together. They spent time individually listing what they wanted to achieve from the mediation and considering what their best and worst case scenarios were. HSM provided Anna with several recommendations for family lawyers so that each parent was armed with some legal advice and well informed before they came to their joint mediation session.
Tom and Anna found the mediation process challenging but in two sessions they were able to come to a number of agreements which addressed their issues in the short term and provided their children with time with their mum and their dad. By looking at how the ongoing conflict in the house was affecting Milly and Sam, Tom and Anna came to the understanding that one of them needed to move out and that as Tom’s parents lived two suburbs away in a big home that it made sense for him to move there in the interim until they decided whether the family home would be put up for sale.
Anna gave Tom reassurance about how important he was in the children’s lives and they discussed how to talk to Milly about the separation and age appropriate language and likely reactions to the news. An interim parenting plan was drawn up with times, changeover locations ensuring Tom was spending significant time with both kids several times a week including a weekly sleep over for Milly with her dad. As part of the mediation some guidelines around communication between Anna and Tom were put in place, first and foremost the agreement was around committing to keeping any ongoing conflict away from their children and acknowledging that while their marriage was now over they needed to find a way to co parent into the future.
WHY MEDIATION WORKED
While Anna and Tom weren’t able to communicate amongst themselves at this stage, they were able to use the mediation process as a safe place to express their needs and wants. The mediation process helped both of them focus on their children and some practical and immediate decisions that needed to be made.
After some coaching from HSM in the pre mediation sessions, Anna and Tom each came to the mediation with several options for each topic they wanted to discuss rather than having a fixed approach. Through the pre mediation sessions both Tom and Anna gained an understanding of the benefits of mediation versus a Court case and this helped each of them stay committed to the process and coming to a negotiated agreement with some compromise from both sides.
CASE STUDY 2: DEFACTO PARTNERS WITHOUT CHILDREN
Rhonda and James were in their late forties and were de facto partners for five years. Each had been previously married and divorced years earlier and Rhonda had two children from her previous marriage who were now young adults. Rhonda’s accountant recommended she consider mediation particularly as the property pool was not large in size and going to Court would mean that a considerable amount would be wasted on legal representation for both James and Rhonda.
James had a considerable amount of superannuation around $300,000 from his work in the public service. Rhonda had very little superannuation as she had worked on and off part time in between raising her children. During their partnership Rhonda had gone back to study architecture and was now working for a mid tier firm and earning around $100,000 a year. Rhonda and James owned an apartment in Mosman valued at around $890,000 there was $200,000 owing to the bank on the apartment and they were currently renting it out and living separately elsewhere.
James wanted to split things down the line, sell the property and each receive 50/50. Rhonda was looking for a 70/30 split citing that she had put in far more for the apartment deposit at the beginning of their relationship and that James had far more super than she did. James noted that Rhonda was now earning good money and would likely continue to earn more as her career progressed and had no need for such a large percentage of the proceeds of the property.
James also noted that he had spent time working on renovations to the apartment, which had added value to the asset. Each agreed they would retain their own cars, which were of fairly equal value. The end result was that Rhonda agreed to leave James’ superannuation out of the split so long as he increased her share of the property sale to a 60/40 split and James agreed.
WHY MEDIATION WORKED
Neither party wanted to end up in Court, while they may have said they would go if they had to, deep down neither wanted to take that route and delay the process any further. With some compromise and flexibility about what would and would not make up the property pool James and Rhonda were able to find a mutually beneficial settlement within mediation.
CASE STUDY 3: Overnights for young children
HSM was approached to conduct a mediation with a young couple Alana and Ben who had recently separated after five years of marriage. They had two children aged three and five months old. Ben said he had reason to believe that Alana had been having an affair. They were still living under the same roof which complicated matters somewhat but is not all that unusual. The father was living in the lounge room and had plans to move out after the holiday period.
The mother said the situation was very tense and she had asked him to move out but he had refused until after the holidays (8 weeks away at the time). The communication between the two was non-existent, they both treated each other as if they were invisible which obviously was not a great situation for the children particularly their three year old son Benji who had begun asking questions about why mummy and daddy didn’t sleep in the same bed anymore.
Ben came to mediation saying he wanted the children to reside with him for 50% of the time. He proposed that they live one week with him and one week with Alana and suggested that due to Alana’s supposed infidelity this was evidence that the children needed the stability of a trustworthy parent.
Alana flat-out refused this proposal. She said that both the children were way too young for overnights and she certainly did not want them at this stage being without her for such long periods as she had been the primary carer since their births and their father had his own business and worked long hours and would never be able to cope with the night waking of the baby and the feeding.
Alana said that she wanted Ben to be a big part of their lives despite their feelings for each other. We discussed various options and talked about what the Court process might look like and the positives around coming to a negotiated agreement.
Ben and Alana agreed their children needed time with their dad on a frequent basis and to that end Ben would come to the family home every Monday and Wednesday after work to spend a few hours with the children (Alana would leave and give them space) bathing them, feeding them, putting them to bed. They also agreed that the children would spend one night per week, the Sunday night sleeping at Ben’s place once he got an apartment. This was an interim arrangement until the children their eldest child turned five at which time living arrangements would be discussed again at mediation.
Why it worked
What aided the mediation was that Ben was able to express his concern and feelings of betrayal about Alana and the affair. Alana responded truthfully and said there had been no physical affair but that she was emotionally cheating and that she had met another man she had feelings for and spoke to often on the phone. Ben was quietly relieved that she had not had the affair he had imagined but still hurt and confused. Alana made it clear the marriage was over and that she had felt that way for some time dating back to her latest pregnancy.
The mediation helped the couple bring the truth to the surface, time wasn’t spent analysing or counselling about how they got to that point but it was acknowledged and they drew a line in the sand, recognised their marriage was over and that they had to now focus on the best interests of their children.
From a short term perspective the mediation brought about the physical split in setting a time period and plan for Ben to move out of the family home and allowed the parents to reality test what a 50/50 arrangement would look like and the possible roadblocks to this type of scenario. Ben did not want Alana to say how and when he could spend time with his children, he wanted to be part of the process, the decision making and that took place in the mediation which empowered both parents as the experts in what their children needed.
Ben pointed out that he had previously looked after the children alone overnight when Alana had been away on a mini break and made a clear case for how he would manage the overnights with his children.