How to Mediate Your Domestic Dispute

November 13, 2007

How do you divide assets at the end of a relationship when you were never married?  This is a problem for countless gay people, who cannot marry, and other people who chose not to marry.  According to the U.S. Census bureau of 2000, over five million Americans are living in a “unmarried-partner household.”  The relevant portion of the chart is reproduced below:

UNMARRIED-PARTNER HOUSEHOLDS

Total

5,230,703

100.0

Male and female

87.4

Both male

332,645

6.4

Both female

326,066

6.2

If you are married, the Courts, at least in Arizona, will kindly assist you in dividing assets in the divorce process.  The Courts will also decide if one person needs some financial support at the end of a relationship (spousal maintenance or alimony) and make amends for community waste (one party destroying, wasting or hiding assets).  Further, the Courts may allocate the cost of litigation where there is a disparity in income or where one person has taken unreasonable positions.  Finally, the Courts will protect people going through a divorce from such things as harassment and the destruction of property by issuing a Preliminary Injunction, prohibiting such conduct.

What do you do if you were not married and you cannot agree on how to divide assets?  You can file a civil action to partition property in both owner’s names.  You can also file an action or contact the police to try to recover your separate property that your former partner took, if you can prove ownership.

Or, you can go to mediation.   Mediation is a non-adversarial process where people experiencing conflict can resolve their disputes with the aid of a neutral mediator, trained in conflict resolution.  In mediation, the parties enter an agreement to discuss their issues in a confidential setting.  The mediator works with the parties to arrive at mutually acceptable solutions.  The parties are not restricted to solutions that may be available in Court.  For example, unmarried parties could agree to a payment from one party to the other, to help that party get back on his/her feet.

The mediator can work with the unique dynamics of a particular relationship.  For example, some people may feel better sitting in separate rooms while discussing assets.  Others may succeed sitting all together with the mediator.  Some people want to complete the mediation at one sitting.  Others want to take time and complete the mediation over a number of sessions.  Experts can also be used to provide information, such as information about the value or most advantageous division of property.

Any agreement reached at the end of the mediation can be binding, if the parties want it to be.  The mediator can help the parties reduce the agreement to writing and give it the same legal effect as any other contract between parties.

Mediation is highly successful (some quote a 90 percent success rate), empowering, confidential, and often quicker and less costly than other options.  Mediation is a good option for almost any type of conflict, and it may well be the only option for some domestic disputes.

Alona M. Gottfried is a mediator and family law attorney in Arizona.  She can be reached at:480-998-1500 or Alona@sglawaz.com.

This Article is designed to be of general interest and should not be considered legal advice. The specific information discussed may not apply to you. Before acting on any matter contained herein, you should consult with your personal legal adviser.

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