A divorce mediation session is a session wherein you and your spouse work out the details of your divorce on all sorts of issues, from who gets what property to whether one of you will get alimony to who gets custody of the kids. Unlike when a judge makes a ruling, or an arbitrator sets forth requirements and decisions, a mediator does not pass final rulings or make agreements between couples. Instead, the mediator acts as a facilitator, helping the couple to come to their own consensus. Once that divorce settlement is finished, it is presented to the court. The court, when they grant the divorce, will approve that mediation agreement. Once the court approves a mediation agreement, it becomes binding and it is backed by the support of the court and legal system- this means there are consequences of breaking that agreement.
What if You Break a Divorce Mediation Agreement?
Once the divorce mediation becomes part of your divorce decree, it is legally binding. Like all legally binding rulings by a judge, there are consequences if you do not follow the orders in the agreement. These consequences can vary depending on the nature of the situation and the manner in which you violate the mediated agreement. For example:
- Your spouse can go back to court to compel you to comply with the agreement. If you are supposed to pay alimony and you don't, your spouse can go back to family court, show the court your mediated agreement and the court will require you to pay. If you are supposed to sell property and don't, the court can compel you to pay
- If you fail to pay alimony or child support according to the terms of a divorce agreement, your spouse can get a judgment against you. Sometimes, this can result in your paycheck or tax return being garnished- which means that per a court order, your employer takes money directly out of all of your paychecks and pays it to your spouse
- Failure to comply with a divorce custody agreement can, in certain instances, be considered kidnapping- especially if you remove your child from the state without permission in violation of a custody agreement. Kidnapping carries with it the penalties of any felony, up to and including jail time.
If you have been involved in divorce mediation and you are not happy with the terms of the agreement being proposed in the mediation, don't sign it or agree to it. Instead, get an experienced attorney to assist you in going to court or in dealing with your spouse to get a better deal. Once a mediation agreement becomes finalized and legally valid, if you want to change the terms, again consult with an experienced divorce attorney who can help you petition the court to make a change.