divorce mediation: complex finances separation mediation finances separation legal aid

Finance

Finance

The following case studies demonstrate a selection of cases where finances and assets were resolved.

Case Study 1

Case Study 1

Lucy and John had decided to separate after 26 years of marriage. They explained that that after their children had moved out they had grown apart and had now decided to separate, but wanted to do so amicably. They had significant assets - John had a share in two businesses, they had various investments and shares, a large valuable property and a property abroad. They both had pensions - John had a large private sector pension and Lucy a public sector one. They wanted to reach a fair solution and were looking to the mediator to help them consider all the options.They spent most of the first meeting collating the financial information that they had brought, putting the figures on a flip chart so everyone could all see the overall picture more clearly. They had already talked between themselves and they shared their initial ideas at the meeting. They both proposed that the family home should be sold and they began to discuss options for them each finding somewhere suitable to live, having already gathered information about various mortgage options.

One of the issues which needed careful consideration was spousal maintenance. To help them think about this, the mediator worked through a detailed schedule so that John and Lucy could calculate their projected monthly expenditure to help them arrive at a maintenance figure that would enable Lucy to meet her needs and that John could afford.

The other main questions that they needed to address were what interest Lucy had in John’s businesses and how they should deal fairly with the pensions. To consider these aspects fully, on the mediator’s suggestion, John and Lucy decided that it would be helpful to have the input of financial adviser and pensions expert. His job was to provide impartial information to help them make more informed decisions. The mediator helped Lucy and John work out the questions they wanted answers to and then a joint letter of instruction to the financial expert was agreed. For the next mediation session, the financial expert prepared a report setting out the different options about what they could do with the pensions to ensure that they had broadly the same income on retirement. He also provided some information about the values of John’s two businesses. At the meeting he talked through the pros and cons of Lucy remaining on the payroll and other options and was also able to give them information on the tax implications of various scenarios.

John and Lucy were able to use this information to inform the proposals they eventually made. The mediator underlined the importance of Lucy and John each taking independent legal advice alongside the mediation process so they could check that the joint proposals they reached were fair from a legal standpoint. In spite of the complexities of their case, Lucy and John were able to finalise an overall financial settlement after just four mediation sessions and within a timescale of three months. Most importantly for them, they felt that the solution they eventually reached was fair and workable and respected what they had shared and built up together during their marriage. Although they no longer were living together, they were pleased that the mediation process had supported their wish to continue to be friends.


I would recommend mediation because it is relaxed and friendly and less scary than a formal solicitor


Case Study 2

Case Study 2

Andy and Kate came to mediation soon after separating. Kate had read an article about mediation and thought it sounded a more amicable and cost effective way to sort out both a financial settlement. She came to find out more at an Information and Options Meeting and following that asked us to invite Andy to a similar meeting. Andy was a bit sceptical about mediation but having had the chance to raise his concerns at his individual meeting decided it was worth trying.

The main topics they needed to sort out was where they were going to live (and in particular what to do about their jointly owned property), how they should deal with their outstanding debts and also child support. The mediator had asked them to bring all the relevant financial information to the first meeting so that the mediator could put all the figures up on a flip chart in a way that Andy and Kate could both understand. The mediator then helped them consider a number of different scenarios. They discussed ideas to see if Kate and the children could remain in the family home. They considered an option where Andy stayed named on the mortgage but Kate decided in the end that she would not on her income be able to meet the mortgage payments as well as the household bills, and Andy said he could not afford to offer Kate additional financial support as he needed to pay rent for a place for himself.

Following the first joint meeting, the mediator prepared two documents - a summary of their discussions and a Financial Statement comprising a schedule setting out all the figures from the flip chart with copies of the documents they had produced. With the help of these, they were both able to take comprehensive legal advice before coming back to a second meeting. At that meeting the mediator helped them discuss the possible options further. In the end, they decided to sell the house and divide the net sale proceeds with Kate receiving a larger percentage share on the basis she did not then claim a share of Andy's (not particularly large) pension fund. They had a difficult discussion about the debt having each taken legal advice about whether the debt should be seen as joint or not. They reached a compromise on this issue, working out between them what felt acceptable. They were also able to work out a slightly creative solution which involved their swapping cars. With regard to child support, the mediator explained the different ways they could sort it out and directed them to the government’s Child Maintenance Options website. At their second meeting, they reached a consensus about how much Andy would pay Kate each month for the children, as well as what additional items he would contribute to such as school uniform and trips.

At the end of the process the mediator prepared a written memorandum setting out all the joint proposals reached. Andy and Kate then took this document to their respective solicitors so that they could prepare a “Consent Order” for the court to approve. This mediation took two sessions and been completed in under two months.

The fact-based, no-blame, solutions-orientated approach worked well and made the whole process as stress free as possible. We easily came to a solution that would have taken a long time to sort out ourselves or through solicitors


Case Study 3

Case Study 3

Rachel and Steve were a high conflict couple who had already gone through a bitter Court battle over the parenting arrangements for their three children. When the marriage ended there was one violent episode which had involved the police and a charge of assault. However they still needed to sort out their finances and they had reached an impasse during negotiations with their solicitors, and things had dragged on uncompleted for over six months

At the first meeting Steve and Rachel were able to update their financial disclosure and clarify the issues over which they needed to make a decision. As a result of them communicating again they realised that they were each getting very different advice from their solicitors which made it difficult for them to find a consensus. In an attempt to find a way forward, the mediator floated some alternative compromise options but none of these could be fully developed into joint proposals. Both Steve and Rachel were very keen to avoid having to go back to court as their experience of the adversarial litigation process had not been good but neither could see an alternative in the light of their very different views of what was fair.

At that stage the mediator put forward the idea of them coming to a second meeting with their solicitors. For this meeting the clients were in separate rooms so they could have discussions with their solicitors in private. The meeting was quite long as the clients worked through the implications of various scenarios and the solicitors helped their respective clients see what a likely outcome would be at court. At the end of three hours, they arrived at joint proposals and the solicitors stayed on to draw up a legally binding agreement. Rachel and Steve both expressed their relief that they could now draw a line under their finances and each move forward.

The mediator made what could have been an extremely difficult situation as good as I think it could have been