Sarah and Beth have lived together for seven years. They intended to live happily ever after, But as too often happens, they drifted apart and their relationship started to strain at the edges. Communications was cut off. Sex was a bother rather than a pleasure. They no longer laughed together. It was time to end it and move on.
Unfortunately there were “entanglements” which had to be addressed. There was the house they purchased and decorated together; There were master Card, Visa, Discover and American Express bills to face. There were life insurance policies taken out during better times. They had but one car to share between the two of them. Who would get the dog? There was only one CD player and so many discs. The biggest issue, however, was Margo, Sarah had given birth, but both were the child’s parents. Where to turn? What to do.
Unlike straight couples, Gay and Lesbian couples do not have the option of turning to the law for an answer. Only Hawaii has recognized marriages between same sex couples as “legal”. Normally an act, if legitimate in one state will be accepted in a “sister ” state under the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution, California, however, has chosen to specifically exclude Hawaii’s marriage statues and continues to treat same sex marriages as taboo
Straight couples can use case law and statutes to untangle their relationships and property. Gay and lesbian couples cannot. The most they can hope for from the law is to be treated as a failed partnership: a business entity. The law of this state does not protect the individuals of a same sex marriage as it does heterosexual couples. There are no rights of spousal support, visitation, pension benefits or other community property protections.
One solution for this problem is Mediation. Through this process parties can work on
solutions to dispute which are not available to them through the traditional Court system. By selecting mediation the parties in a dissolving relationship are choosing to take charge of their lives by maintaining their sense of dignity and self-esteem. They are saying that they prefer to end their relationship in a cooperative, forward thinking way, which minimizes the anger associated with the break up.
A skilled and experienced mediator is able to create a safe place and a cooperative environment which encourages the parties to engage in open and honest discussion. The mediator’s role is that of an impartial neutral. He must identify the issues, explore each parties underlying interests and balance the power within the relationship.
A mediator is NOT an advocate for either party, nor does he make the decisions which affect the settlement. They arc trained to listen and help each of the parties to stay focused on the task at hand, During the course of mediation the parties are encourage to discuss all of the issues and explore the various options which they have to resolve their differences.
The final product of a successful mediation is a Memorandum of Understanding. For straight couples it may also be known as a martial settlement agreement, This contract sets forth the details and specifics of the mutually agreed to decisions, If either party breaches any of the terms the other has a right to sue for enforcement in a court of law.
Mediators can come from man disciplines. They can be rained lawyers, psychologists, Marriage Family and Children Counselors or any like background. To date California does not require the mediators be licensed by the state. This is likely to change by the end of the century.
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