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Many unmarried couples on Long Island are unaware that they can utilize divorce mediation to sort out their affairs when they break up. In New York and in many other states, divorce mediation can be used for unmarried couples as well as for those who are married. In fact, it is increasingly common that couples who never married seek the services of a divorce mediator to resolve the issues in their breakup. Mediation can help to avoid the time and expense of taking an ex to court to assert your rights to certain property or over your children in common.

Unmarried Couples Often Have Common Property

Boyfriends and girlfriends, whether heterosexual or same-sex couples living together, may own property together, have joint bank accounts, and share other assets and debts that need to be split in a breakup. They may also have separate bank accounts that they want to keep separate after the dissolution of their relationship. Since their relationship is ending, it can be helpful to create a contract that addresses how debts and assets are divided as well. They can also establish which items were owned prior to the relationship and which are your property alone. Items such as furniture, artwork, gold coins or even certain financial accounts should go with you if you owned them prior to the relationship.

Addressing Issues of Children of Unwed Couples

In addition, plenty of unmarried people have children together. When a breakup occurs, they must decide who gets custody as well as who gets visitation and how much, and also must work out a child support arrangement and a schedule. Of course these parents can go to court to resolve these issues, but mediation can help them to do so in a more efficient manner in terms of time, cost, and stress.

Mediation Avoids Long, Costly, Stressful Litigation

Mediation is a good option for unmarried couples with issues that need to be resolved in the breakup. In mediation, a neutral mediator will assist both sides with negotiating an agreement that sets forth how you will divide your lives in a fair way and will also make your breakup as amicable as possible. While the mediator is neutral and does not put either party’s interests ahead of the other’s, some people find solace in taking the agreement to their own attorneys before they decide to sign. At the conclusion of the mediation process, they have successfully divided that which was acquired during their relationship and avoided litigation. The costs are very small compared to the potential costs of litigating the division of property. And because the couple never married, never entered into a civil union, or a domestic partnership, there are no statutory obligations.

Mediation Is Not For Everyone, But It Can Be Helpful

Even though most unmarried couples who break up are able to go their separate ways without mediation or court, sometimes the break up can be more complicated than that. The more property that is owned together, the more complicated it can be to sort things out in a break up, particularly if you had no agreement about this property ahead of time.

How Mediation Works for Unmarried Couples

In mediation, you and your ex will meet face to face in the presence of a neutral mediator. The mediator will help you to work out fair and realistic solutions to your disputes and find common ground about how your relationship can be separated. For couples that are very argumentative and struggle to even have a practical conversation about the consequences of the separation, a mediator will help you to moderate and structure your discussion so that you make some progress instead of simply inciting one another’s anger or hard feelings. The mediator will help you come to an agreement — an agreement which will be made voluntarily between the two of you. Ideally there is some compromise on both sides as each party looks objectively at the circumstances as mediation goes on.  Usually, parties leave mediation feeling as though their dispute was resolved fairly, which is why mediation is so effective. It should also be added that mediation is a very good option for unmarried couples who have children together and need to resolve a parenting plan and issues on child support.

If you are able to reach a settlement, it should be documented in a clear written legal agreement and signed by both parties. The agreement should provide for all of the terms of your separation and what disputes it resolves. Once you do so, the contract is enforceable in court and each of you will be legally held to perform it.

Litigation Should Be a Last Resort

If you can’t even agree about setting up a mediation to settle your dispute, taking this to court might be your last resort. Litigation is likely to be expensive, time consuming, and very stressful, so only take this route if all else fails. But when nothing else seems to be working and there is significant money or property being disputed, going to court provides a way to reach a resolution.

Legal claims that could be necessary include breach of contract (if there was a written, oral, or other agreement that was violated), partition of real property or personal property (if that property is owned jointly and cannot be shared or given to one party only), or claims for financial damages arising from some wrongdoing by one party, whether that be a physical, financial, or other type of wrongdoing.

Contact an Experienced Mediator and Family Law Attorney to Help Resolve Your Disputes

To learn more about Divorce Mediation on Long Island and how it can save you time, money and stress, visit this page: How Divorce Mediation Works and its Benefits for Families in Nassau, Suffolk, Long Island. Robert E. Hornberger, Esq. is a Long Island Divorce Attorney and Divorce Mediator serving Nassau County, Suffolk County, and New York City. Contact our office today at 631-923-1910 to schedule your free consultation.

Free Long Island Divorce Guide

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Our 41-page “Guide to New York Divorce: What You Need to Know Before Hiring a Divorce Lawyer in New York” written by an experienced family law lawyer, Long Island’s Robert E. Hornberger, Esq., provides you with real information on the divorce process and the laws it rests upon in the state of New York. This book will help give you a solid foundation upon which you can begin the process of making your family’s, life better.

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