By Natalie Bower
Attorney, Cordell & Cordell
It is best to avoid discussing financial matters, such as property division or child support, while in custody mediation.
The financial and property issues require more background information in addressing their terms in a final order and can potentially impede one or both of the parties from working toward a resolution on the custody and visitation issues where one party is dissatisfied with how the property or financial issues are being addressed.
The benefit to this type of mediation is that mediation of the financial issues may expedite reaching a comprehensive agreement in a case.
However, because mediation is usually conducted at the beginning of a case, the parties and their attorneys have likely not had the opportunity to complete the normal exchange of relevant information regarding the parties’ income, assets, debts, retirement, investments, etc.
The financial issues often involve complex transactions with diverse legal consequences requiring consultation with the attorneys, which can limit the ability to reach a comprehensive resolution to the financial issues in mediation.
The exchange of this information is important for clients to review before negotiating a settlement on the financial and property issues so that the client and his attorney can fully assess the legal implications and options for effectively negotiating a settlement.
Additionally, this exchange of information lays the framework for further preparation for trial should the parties be unable to reach settlement.
At the end of your last mediation session, you should ask that the mediator and both parties review the entire proposed terms of the mediated agreement together one final time to address any misunderstandings and provide additional details and clarification where needed.
Should the parties reach an agreement in mediation, the mediator would forward a thorough memo to the parties and their attorneys detailing the terms of the agreement. The attorneys would then advise their clients as to the general terms and specific language of a proposed formal, written order.
It is at this stage that the “devil in the details” can require changes to the mediated agreement. Once the proposed agreement from mediation is reduced to a written order, agreed to and signed by the parties, and entered by the judge, it then becomes an enforceable and binding order for the parties.
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Natalie Hinton is a Associate Attorney for the Edwardsville, Illinois office of Cordell & Cordell, P.C. She is licensed to practice in the state of Illinois. Ms. Hinton graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with dual degrees, a B.A. in Psychology and a B.A. in French. She received her Juris Doctor from The John Marshall Law School in Chicago.
Prior to pursuing her law degree Ms. Hinton worked as a Legal Assistant with Cordell & Cordell, P.C. in St. Louis, Missouri. It was during this time that she was inspired to attend law school.