- One of them moving out of their home;
- A parenting plan for their children; and
- A monthly budget to assist them in taking on the expenses of a second residence.
This new living arrangement appeared to be largely orchestrated by Sam, who had been thinking about this for a while and had a plan about how she wanted things to work. Avery (the one moving out) shared that he had just found out about it earlier that day.
As we discussed this new living arrangement, I noticed that Avery was very quick to agree with everything that Sam wanted to do:
- The time each would spend with the children, including a holiday and vacation schedule
- The amount of child support Avery would pay
- The kind of apartment Avery would find, and the location, to be approved by Sam
I asked Avery if the proposed arrangement would work for him, and his response? He would make it work if it was what Sam wanted.
As the terms of the agreement were outlined, they seemed fairly equal:
- The amount of time that each would spend with the children was comparable.
- The amount of child support allowed each of them to provide for the children.
- The location of the proposed new place of residence for Avery was logical, as it was in close proximity to the couple’s home and the children’s school.
Everything about the agreement seemed fair, except for the fact that, until a few hours before our meeting, Avery knew nothing about it.
We discussed a timeline for Avery to find an apartment, and both Sam and Avery agreed that the location and condition of the new apartment were more important than adhering to a date. However, Sam was insistent that Avery began looking that night. She also requested that Avery signed something that day, indicating that he was in agreement with her plan.
As their mediator, I had some concerns about whether or not this agreement was going to work, given some unanswered questions.
- What if he couldn’t find an “acceptable” place to live?
- How much would such an apartment cost, and would that impact his ability to pay the agreed-upon amount of child support?
Until all issues that might have an impact on the ability of one person to honor his/her commitment have been addressed and agreed to, they do not have an agreement that could be signed.
Self-determination is a critical part of mediation, and if Avery truly agrees with Sam’s entire proposal, and this new arrangement is sustainable and works for him, then the agreement will work.
I do not believe I am serving either of them if they reach an agreement that only ONE of them is able to honor. I believe it is the responsibility of the mediator to make sure that BOTH people understand and can live with whatever they decide. What do you think?