The Process of Spousal Support Mediation

Video Transcript

Oliver Ross, Mediator: Hi, I’m Oliver Ross. I’m the founder of Out-of-Court Solutions, and for the past 18 years I’ve been a full time mediator.

Spousal support mediation, let me start off by saying that spousal support is one of, if not, the most unpredictable area of the law there is in Arizona and many other states. If any mediator or any lawyer is to tell a person going through divorce, they know exactly what a court will do when it comes to the issue of spousal maintenance, it’s just not true. You actually want to walk away from that person, because you can submit the same facts to 10 different judges and get six or seven answers. So the way we go about it in mediation is very different than if you are using two separate lawyers, because the lawyers would want to hire accountants, each side contending that the standard of living was either higher or lower, and they might want to even hire career consultants contending how much income each spouse could earn.

Here in mediation, first of all, as to determining what the reasonable needs of the person, of the spouse, claiming spousal maintenance would be, we use income and expense spreadsheets. In other words, our clients get a specially prepared spreadsheet that lists all of their expenses, from their mortgage payment to how much they spend for food, and if there are minor children involved we actually have them break that down between themselves and the children. Once we get the wife’s expenses, once we get the husband’s expenses, then we share that information. I use a flat screen TV, we project it up there, and then the husband can ask the wife clarifying questions. For example, “Why do you have… “, “Why are you going to spend $600 a month on food”? “Why are you spending $500 a month for the beauty parlor”? And the wife can ask the husband questions like, “Why are you taking all these vacations or trips, you know, and spending X number of dollars.”

So through this process of sitting together with me as the mediator and collaboratively and cooperatively getting to a place where we understand what the reasonable needs of each the husband and the wife are over the next year or two at least, then we can compare that to the income that’s available, then they can collaborate and cooperate as to what the fair amount of spousal maintenance should be. Very different than if they were going to use lawyers because not only the process is much longer, it could take months if not years, where in mediation the average time is two or three months to resolve the spousal maintenance issue as well as all the other issues. Division of assets, allocation of debts, parenting of any minor children, and of course, if there are minor children, child support.

So, spousal maintenance, its like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, and I tell this to clients. Unless and until a certain number of pieces fall into place, in other words, what is the income? And if one spouse is employed part-time or not employed at all, what is their educational background? Their work experience background? What could they potentially be earning? Because that becomes a factor. Because the courts don’t look at necessarily what a person is earning, they look at what a person, based on their education background and experience, is capable of earning. And once we put all of those pieces of the jigsaw puzzle together, 95% if not 98% of the couples that I’ve mediated with reach an agreement that they both can live with about spousal maintenance.

Author Oliver Ross Mediator Written By:
Out-of-Court Solutions
8350 E. Raintree Drive, Suite A-205
Scottsdale, Arizona 85260
Office: 480-422-3475
Fax: 866-929-1985

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