Balance. We hear that term a lot lately. There is balance in terms of stay at home or go outside. There is balance in terms of work-life balance. There is balance in divorce terms too. When it comes to divorce there are two main categories: property and children. When people talk balance with property they think it means 50/50. When people talk balance with children they think it means 50/50. The issue is that 50/50 is rarely actually a balance. I will explain further below.
I hear it all the time that people think balanced property divisions means each party gets 50% of the property. This is not always the case. There are many other factors that come into play when dividing property. For example, if the property was owned before marriage or was a gift then it is the separate property of that person, not community. As such, if one party has substantial separate property it may be more balanced to give the other party more of the community property than just 50%.
Or there are situations where one spouse earns significantly less than the other and a 50% division would put them in a bad place financially. The other spouse perhaps can recoup their loss quicker and be able to afford a new place to live quicker. Balance is not just about 50/50 but also putting people on equal footing.
Mediation allows for flexibility to work through these issues. Sometimes balance and 50/50 are one in the same. When they are not, though, mediation allows you to be creative in how property gets divided.
Lately I have seen more situations of parents wanting 50/50 with their children. When I ask what that means sometimes I hear I would equal say, sometimes I hear I want equal time. In mediation it really depends on what both parties can actually do. Often times I hear I want equal time with the children, but when we delve into their work schedule we learn that equal time won’t necessarily work. So we get more creative. Sometimes that means giving an extra night during the week or sometimes an extra weekend. Sometimes it means more electronic communication time. It’s all flexible.
When parties want equal decision making we work through that as well. It has to be possible for both parents to communicate with each other in order to have equal decision making. And what happens if the parents do not agree? We create balance here too buy building in tie-breakers so that if the parents do not agree then the tie-breaker makes the decision.
As displayed in the picture in this blog, balance is not always in the middle. Balance can mean giving up something on one end so that you can keep more of something else on the other end. When people get caught up in creating a 50/50 balance they lose sight of the things that are really important to them. In mediation I try to bring out those important pieces and work towards creating balance with the other pieces.