My good friend and colleague, Justin Kelsey at www.skylarklaw.com has created an incredible resource about prenuptial agreements and postnuptial agreements. Download that resource from the Skylark Law and Mediation website here.
Having helped so many people get divorced, I have become a strong proponent of collaboratively negotiated and well drafted prenuptial or postnuptial agreements. These contracts can help set the tone for a relationship, by helping people square assumptions and manage expectations for the future. I speak more about this in an article I wrote for the South Shore Women’s Journal which you can find here.
Mediation has become a popular way for divorcing couples to resolve their separation, and for good reason: through mediation, couples are able to efficiently come to an agreement that meets their shared interests and allows them to transition without the emotional and financial cost of litigation. What many people do not realize, however, is that mediation can help families resolve other kinds of conflict. Here are a few examples of where mediation can help families mindfully and creatively transform or prevent disputes:
Parenting agreements for never-married parents: Never-married parents face many of the same challenges divorced parents face – managing parenting time, children’s expenses, and communication obstacles. Many never-married parents go through the court system to obtain child support and custody judgments, but few formalize a parenting plan or put into place a system for resolving parenting issues as they arise. Rather than just ignore the issues or allow them to snowball, never-married parents can use mediation proactively to craft a legally-binding, comprehensive parenting agreement and, when conflict becomes too difficult to manage, use mediation to resolve differences rather than fighting it out in court.
Premarital agreements: Couples getting married often spend tens of thousands of dollars and invest countless hours planning their wedding celebration, but few take the time or invest resources into planning their actual marriage. Premarital (or “prenuptial”) agreements aren’t just for wealthy people preserving family fortunes – they can be used to help young couples consciously create their “marriage contract”. In this contract, couples can outline how they intend to share financial, parenting, and household obligations, and can also mindfully consider what they will do if they get divorced. By mediating a premarital agreement (and revisiting this agreement every 3-5 years), couples can reduce the likelihood of mismatched assumptions and building resentments about the marital partnership. In addition, couples can develop strategies for resolving conflict in the future. Given the prevalence and cost of divorce, premarital mediation is an extremely wise investment in a couple’s future together.
Intergenerational and elder disputes: Few conflicts are as painful to watch escalate as intergenerational or sibling disputes, which can deeply and sometimes permanently fracture family trees. Probate disputes, disagreements about managing an aging parent’s estate, or disputes around transitioning a parent to assisted living can snowball into vitriol that lasts a lifetime. A mediator can facilitate these difficult family conversations and help the family make collaborative decisions that take into consideration the needs and interests of everyone involved.
Post-divorce mediation: Just because the divorce is finalized doesn’t mean conflict ends; inevitably, circumstances change, and divorced parents can find themselves repeatedly at odds with each other over such issues as parenting decisions, finances, or college expenses. Litigating a modification can be costly and inefficient, and almost always perpetuates adversity. In mediation, each parents’ concerns are heard, appropriate information is gathered and considered, and parents can work together to efficiently and collaboratively focus on the children’s best interests.
Family conflict can disrupt or destroy some of the most important relationships in our life, and the cost of allowing family conflict to persist can be devastating. If your family is struggling with conflict, consider hiring a mediator to help you resolve issues efficiently and creatively.