Does Your Agreement Contain An “Expansion Joint?”

The typical mediated divorce, where there are children in the marriage, will deal with many issues, all of which will fall within the major areas of  property division, maintenance (spousal support), parenting (custody and visitation), and child support.

While mediation is well-suited to deal with the tangle of  issues in a full divorce, it is no less effective to deal with a single issue (or set of issues) falling within any one of the noted major categories.  Despite the good intentions of the parties and their drafters, future issues and disputes may arise under existing agreements, prompted by unforeseen developments and significant changes in circumstances.

Examples of post-settlement/divorce issues which may arise include such matters as:  What’s the appropriate college for a child?  Which summer camp?  A disagreement over the parenting schedule may be prompted by one parent moving further (or even closer) to the children’s home.  These narrower issues and disputes are no less amenable to mediation than the entire divorce itself.

While it may be impossible to catalogue all of the post-agreement issues that may surface due to unanticipated changes in circumstances, an enduring separation or settlement agreement will contain an “expansion joint” – a provision that allows adjustment to the agreement by consent of the parties.  Often, parties will find it useful to use mediation to establish that consent.  This is why many parties opt to include return-to-mediation provisions in their agreements.

A return to mediation by the former spouses does not have to be a matter of dispute or disagreement.  This may simply be done as a matter of sound practice.  For instance, Dr. Ruth Bettleheim, a respected psychotherapist writing recently in The New York Times, suggested that entire parenting plans be reviewed every two years to reflect the fact that kids are constantly growing and that their needs and interests will naturally change over time.

Many former spouses recognize the need for changes to accommodate growth of the children and are able to quickly resolve narrow kinds of issues by themselves.  Other couples will struggle to deal with changes or may simply find that the structure of the mediation process is helpful in identifying, discussing and resolving issues.  For these parents, a more limited mediation can be scheduled.  Frequently, consent is easily reached in only one or two sessions.

Mediated Solutions for Living is an affirmation that the family mediation process may be adopted to address issues large and small.


Feel free to ask any questions, to comment, or to request more information in the Comments Box below.  Also, please feel free to forward this blog to anyone you know who might be interested in its topic.

Sanford (Sandy) Balick, Attorney & Mediator in New York Sandy Balick signature
Sanford E. Balick, Esq.
Founder & Principal Mediator
Consensus Point Mediation, LLC.

Phone: (646) 340-3434


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