Divorce mediation case: Income and expenses

Bill and Angela, who we have been following, are set to begin their second mediation session. They attended a consultation in November. In their first mediation session in December, they addressed parenting issues. Now, they will begin to discuss financial matters.

Jan. 19 — Session 2

The mediator asks Angela and Bill how they and the children are, and whether anything of note has happened since the last session.

The mediator gives the spouses a brief overview of Marital and Separate Property (and Debts).

He then begins setting out Bill’s and Angela’s respective income and expenses. [The mediator had e-mailed each of them a blank form asking for this information after the first session, and both spouses have filled it out.] This is done using a flip-chart, so that all three of them can see the figures that the spouses supply.

Bill questions why Angela is paying $400 a month for clothes for herself and the children. Bill isn’t angry, but thinks the number is high. In discussing the matter, it turns out that Angela based her calculation on her September credit card statement, which showed higher costs than average due to purchasing back-to-school clothing. Their daughter needed a lot of new things, because of how much she had grown over the summer.

Angela says that she will look at her statements for the past year and take the average of that 12-month period. Bill agrees to her suggestion. The mediator makes a note to come back to this question.

Angela asks if — since money will be tight — Bill can cut down on his recreational spending. Bill bristles at first; but looking at where his money goes, decides this is reasonable. Bill says he can spend a lot less on sporting events. He does a quick calculation, agreeing to reduce recreational spending by 10 percent, starting this month. He believes that he can bring it down further, but feels comfortable starting at 10 percent.

The mediator, noticing Angela’s facial expression, asks if she wants to say something.

She answers, “Well, I think Bill could do more here.” (Bill immediately becomes upset.)

“But,” she adds, “Bill is willing to commit to this, and says he’ll do more; I believe that.” Turning to Bill, she says, “Maybe it’s a good idea that you start with 10 percent; that way, you won’t feel deprived. If you spent less now, you might hate it, and be angry with me, and we’d be worse off. So, good. Do the 10 percent for now. Then, we can talk about it again in a month or two. Can we do that?”

Bill is still annoyed, but he also feels that he is being heard by his wife. He agrees. They discuss what to do with the money that will be saved. Bill wants to use it to pay down a credit card. Angela agrees to this.

Regarding the expense and income figures now displayed on the flipchart, the spouses agree that the numbers are pretty accurate.

Bill raises a concern he has about the parenting agreement. He says that he has what is a minor change in mind that would allow him to spend more time with the children during the summer, if Angela would be ok with it. Bill shares his thought.

Angela says that the change would be alright with her, if another small change can be made when it comes to the Thanksgiving holiday break, starting the following year.

Bill tells Angela that he is willing; while he likes the Thanksgiving break and doesn’t really want to change the schedule they had agreed to, the change over the summer is a much bigger deal to him.

The session ends, with the spouses agreeing to complete the Asset/Debt forms for the next session.

Next time: Assets (especially the house) and debts.

New York City and Long Island-based divorce mediator and collaborative divorce lawyer Lee Chabin helps clients end their relationships respectfully and without going to court. Contact him at lee_chabin@lc-mediate.com, (718) 229–6149, or go to http://lc-mediate.com/. Follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/lchabin.

Disclaimer: All material in this column is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.