Marital Settlement Agreement Despite Prior Failed Mediation
- Applicant: Ms. Yuen
- Nationality: Cantonese
- Case Type: Marital Settlement Agreement
- Time: 3 days
- Don’t usually handle divorce litigation cases
- Late to the situation
- Tensions and frustrations are already high
- Wife wants to drag out the proceedings
- Mediating with a party that did not want to negotiate in good faith
- Understanding what result would best serve our client
Divorces and the legal battles around them can be some of the most emotionally painful periods of anyone’s life. When both parties are not on the same page, they can also drag on into seeming eternity. Every step of the process requires mounds of paperwork, every step requires careful negotiation with the other party. If you find any exceptions or hit a snag in the negotiation process, you can extrapolate the time spent on any given step. And that is if both parties are semi-willing to negotiate in good faith. Now imagine one of the parties has no interest in getting divorced, and they want to drag out the proceedings for as long as possible to avoid an end point where they do end up separated from their spouse. This can be a nightmarish scenario for any one involved, and unfortunately this is where we found our client, Ms. Yuen. By the time they came to us, the situation in this divorce case had became so convoluted that we were actually retained on a limited basis to represent Ms. Yuen by the firm that her husband hired, free of charge to her. This is, of course, nearly unheard of in any type of litigation case, but it proved a wise move on the other firm’s part.
KEYS TO SUCCESS
Ms. Yuen did not want to be divorced. She was quite happy with her lifestyle, which included traveling around the world and seeing wondrous sites. Her husband struggled with their relationship, as he was a many multi-business owner, a man who had to be readily available to many people in order for his businesses to run smoothly. He also liked running his businesses that way, and made no attempt to hire new people or move any of his workload to anyone else. This led to longstanding tension between the couple, and was ultimately a major factor in Ms. Yuen’s husband filing for divorce. During the litigation process, Ms. Yuen chose to represent herself and made every step and negotiation infuriatingly difficult. She didn’t want to get divorced, and her legal strategy may have been to stonewall wherever she could. Also, some of her decision making could be ascribed to the fact that this was a person thrown suddenly from the relatively calm waters of marriage into the stormy seas of divorce, a person who was trying to emotionally process what was happening around her while she was being told that her life was about to completely change monetarily and physically as well. Inevitably, a breakdown of communication happened between the sides. This is when we were called in to help.
Ms. Yuen arrived at our office wary of our help. We were, after all, hired by her husband’s attorney. She couldn’t be sure if we were really on her side, at least not initially. The first time she came in, she simply reiterated her litigation goals, which were wildly out of sync with reality. If she were aiming high, she would have asked to be given percentages of the businesses that her husband owned. But she wasn’t aiming high, she was aiming for the stars; she was asking for all of his businesses. But in reality, she didn’t want his businesses, she just didn’t want to be divorced.
“They had gone through mediation and it didn’t work. The wife, the husband, the attorneys, everyone was highly frustrated. That’s when they found our mediation services… the very first step as a mediator is to build rapport and trust with our client. From one session I understood her goals in the divorce litigation to be unattainable. The second session I tried a different tact, I needed to get to know her so that she could get what she actually wanted from this divorce. We were happy that she ended up getting what she needed from a difficult situation.” – Joseph Tsang, Attorney
We stopped there for our first session, but we scheduled a second session that we knew would be run entirely different from the first. For the second session, we focused on her personal life; what did she want to do with her life, what did she regularly enjoy doing with her friends, what made her happy about her current lifestyle, all the positives of her current life. It became clear to us that traveling the world was something that she had fallen in love with during her marriage and that was one of the most difficult things that she thought she was letting go.
We scheduled a third session, and in that third session we pointed out to her that dragging out these proceedings any further wasn’t helping her, it was stopping her from being able to move on with her life. We also pointed out that it was perfectly reasonable to set up a situation where she could continue to live out her dream life by providing a structure to do so inside the marriage settlement agreement, but it wouldn’t work if she did not relent on her over-the-top demands.
Before Ms. Yuen’s husband’s firm came to us to help with mediation, this divorce case had been going on for over a year and a half. They had gone through months of mediation with multiple different agencies and had found no solution. Sometimes mediation doesn’t work because clients, like Ms. Yuen, didn’t want it to work. Sometimes mediation doesn’t work because the mediators themselves are not prepared for what lay ahead of them. We were fully prepared for Ms. Yuen however, and we took the time to understand her before trying to bring her back to the negotiating table.
Because of our style of mediation, we were able to get Ms. Yuen back to the negotiating table with a reasonable and well thought out idea of what a settlement should look like within three days. It did not take long for both parties to sign the marital settlement agreement, allowing everyone involved to move on with their lives. Ms. Yuen could afford to continue living the life she wanted to live, free of a broken marriage.
*Name has been changed to protect client identity
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