How to Appeal Mediation Agreement Signed Under Duress

Posted in Mediation on September 17, 2020

Mediation is a confidential meeting between two parties to resolve an issue, such as the terms of a divorce or a property settlement agreement. It is an out-of-court process in which both parties attempt to agree on a resolution to avoid going to trial. If the parties reach an agreement during mediation, they will sign the settlement for it to become legally binding. If you feel someone forced you to sign an agreement during mediation, you could have grounds to appeal the decision.

How Does Mediation Work?

Learn about the mediation process before you sit down for your meeting with your ex-spouse or another party – especially if you choose to represent yourself rather than to hire a mediation attorney. Knowing how mediation works can prevent you from doing something you don’t want to, such as signing an agreement because you thought you lawfully had to.

Mediation is not as formal as a trial or arbitration. The law does not obligate you to reach an agreement or sign off on anything during mediation. You are free to leave the meeting whenever you want without penalty. Mediation involves you, the other party, your lawyers (if desired) and a mediator. The mediator should be an unbiased third party who does not have ties to you or the other party. The mediator is there to encourage compromises between the two parties, not to side with one or the other or to make a ruling. It will be up to you and the other party to agree to a settlement or proceed to trial.

What Is Duress?

Duress is the legal term for feeling forced to do something against your will due to threats, coercion, intimidation, blackmail, violence, constraints or other actions. During mediation, a mediator will help guide the conversation and steer it toward key points. The mediator should be neutral, honest, excellent at communicating, reasonable and focused on problem-solving.

Although the mediator may press you to talk about certain subjects, the mediator should not make you feel harassed, intimidated or pressured to make any decisions. The other party also does not have the right to bully or manipulate you into accepting the agreement. Emotions may be high during mediation, but no one has the right to force you to sign anything. If you felt pressured or coerced to sign an agreement, you may be able to file an appeal.

What to Do If You Settled Under Duress

You have every right to walk away from a mediation meeting without having agreed to anything. While the goal of mediation is to compromise on key issues and settle a case without going to court, nothing should pressure you into agreeing to something that is against your better judgment. If you did sign a mediation agreement while under duress, you can appeal the decision. The appeals process can be difficult and complicated, however.

The easiest solution is to talk to your ex-spouse. Ideally, your ex will listen to you and agree to renegotiate and create a new agreement. The courts will most likely change the mediation agreement if it has consent from both parties. If your ex-spouse refuses to renegotiate, you will have to make your appeal official. Use a divorce lawyer to help you with the appeals process. You will start by filing a motion with the court explaining that you signed under duress and wish to change the agreement.

You will need to prove that you were under duress for a judge to agree to overturn a mediation agreement. A lawyer can help you with your burden of proof by searching for related evidence, such as threatening text messages from your ex. Your lawyer may also be able to prove duress by showing that the mediator was not a neutral party and was working with or for your ex-spouse. Proving duress could result in the courts nullifying the signed agreement and having your case reopened. Hire a lawyer to represent you during mediation to avoid signing anything you do not wish to sign. A lawyer can also help you with the appeals process in Colorado, if necessary.

What Happens If You Lie in Divorce Mediation?

Posted in Divorce,Mediation on March 11, 2020

Divorce mediation is not the same as a court trial. It is a pre-trial meeting in which you and your spouse – with or without legal representation – work out the details of your divorce agreement without a judge’s intervention. You will have the power to agree or disagree with the terms of the divorce during mediation. You are not under oath to tell the truth during mediation. Lying during mediation, however, could have negative repercussions on your divorce case. If a judge finds out you lied in divorce mediation, this could affect decisions such as child custody and support.

You Will Not Face Criminal Charges

Lying during divorce mediation is generally not a crime. In most situations, it will not come with criminal repercussions like lying under oath during a trial (perjury) could. Perjury is a crime in Colorado in which a person knowingly lies while under oath or authorized by law to tell the truth. The penalties for perjury can include prison time of up to six years, as well as fines of up to $500,000. Perjury is a Class 4 felony in Colorado. Lying during divorce mediation is not perjury, however. Prosecutors typically cannot charge you with a crime if someone catches you lying during mediation. Yet you could face other significant consequences, such as being held in contempt of court. Contempt of court can lead to expensive fines and potential jail time.

You Could Lose Your Case

Even if lying during divorce mediation does not constitute a crime in Colorado, a family law judge could take strongly to the deception. A judge could use proof of a lie during mediation as evidence that you are not a fit parent or do not deserve certain awards, such as spousal maintenance (alimony). The judge can see lying behaviors as a negative against one spouse when making other important decisions as well, such as where a child should live.

It is up to a judge’s discretion during child custody hearings in Colorado to determine the fitness of each parent to have physical and/or legal parenting responsibilities. A parent’s fitness can involve many factors, including his or her relationship with the child, ability to care for the child, history of domestic violence, criminal convictions, and alcohol abuse. It could also involve the parent’s willingness to lie during court processes. Proof that one parent lied could give a judge a reason to award primary child custody to the other parent.

The severity of your lie can determine its consequences during divorce mediation. If you lie about your income level, for example, this could have serious penalties. Your income level can decide matters such as how much you will owe your ex-spouse in child support. If the issue you lied about impacts your children, a judge will most likely take the lie very seriously. A major deception could impact the outcome of your divorce hearing. Minor deceit, however, may not play a role in the future of your divorce case.

How to Prove Your Spouse Lied During Mediation

If you believe your spouse is guilty of lying during divorce mediation, find evidence that supports this belief. Hire a divorce attorney to help you investigate your spouse and obtain proof of deceit. Proving to a judge that your spouse lied during mediation could work in your favor during discussions regarding child custody, child support and spousal maintenance. Seeking the truth could lead to a higher child support amount if your spouse was lying about his or her income, for instance. It could also lead to penalties against your spouse if he or she told a major lie.

If you believe your spouse lied during divorce mediation, find evidence of the lie to present to the courts rather than fighting back with deceit or inappropriate actions of your own. Proof of a lie could come in the form of asset and debt documentation. This may include bank statements, income tax returns, credit card statements, pay stubs and household bills that prove your spouse lied about his or her financial status during mediation. Formal discovery techniques with help from a divorce mediation lawyer could produce these documents and others that may help you prove deceit. You may also hire a private investigator. Working with an attorney could yield the best outcome possible for your divorce case.

What Happens After Divorce Mediation?

Posted in Mediation on February 5, 2020

Divorce mediation is a popular alternative to a conventional courtroom setting. Mediation involves both spouses, (possibly) their lawyers and a third-party unbiased judge, or mediator. Mediation can be as official or unofficial as you wish. The mediator cannot rule on your divorce or create court orders. Instead, the mediator is there to communicate with you and help achieve a compromise. What happens next depends on whether divorce mediation succeeds or fails.

A Judge Dissolves Your Marriage

Mediation is a faster and cheaper way to get a divorce than a traditional trial. You and your spouse must be able to compromise on the terms of the split, however, for mediation to work. You must work together on decisions such as property division, child custody and spousal support. Otherwise, you will have to go to trial for a divorce decree. If you can make mediation work, you and your spouse will take the decisions you made together to a judge to sign off on the agreement. This will generally be the only contact with the court you will need to get a divorce mediator in Fort Collins.

An attorney can help you and your spouse draw up a divorce agreement that includes every detail of the decisions you made together. It is important to get official documentation of your agreement for use later. You need a legally enforceable official document. Then, you will both submit the agreement to the court in the county where you live and qualify for a divorce. A judge will review your agreement to make sure it aligns with Colorado’s laws and – if you have children – their best interests.

If a judge agrees to the paperwork you submitted from mediation, he or she will process your divorce and issue a judgment. A judgment will officially dissolve your marriage and set the terms of your divorce in motion. To change the terms from that point, you or your spouse have to petition the courts and ask them to make the alteration. After a judge gives his or her approval and the courts process your paperwork, mediation has worked and you will officially be divorced.

You Proceed to a Divorce Trial

With successful mediation, you will never have to appear in court in Colorado. If you and your spouse cannot agree with each other on the terms of the split, however, or if a judge refuses to sign off on the agreement you created, you may have to proceed to trial. A divorce trial involves a judge and often attorneys. You and your spouse will each state your cases and provide evidence to support your side, if applicable. The judge will have the final word on all matters involved in your divorce, including child custody and property division.

Colorado is a no-fault divorce state, meaning you will not have to prove your spouse caused the split for the courts to grant a divorce. You can receive a dissolution of marriage simply based on grounds such as irreconcilable differences or an irretrievably broken relationship. While this can keep things simple during the complaint phase, fault can make a difference to other aspects of your divorce trial if your case goes to court.

If you wish to persuade the courts to rule in your favor on matters such as child custody or property division in Colorado, you may have to involve the fault of your spouse. If adultery was a factor, for example, showing proof against your spouse could convince a judge to grant you alimony as part of your divorce settlement. Without instituting fault, your judge will make determinations based on the state’s divorce laws instead. Colorado is an equitable division state, for instance, meaning while the courts will divide assets fairly between a couple, they will not always do so equally. Hire a lawyer for assistance if you think your divorce case will go to court in Colorado. Here is a helpful checklist for what to bring or prepare to mediation in Colorado.



What to Bring to a Divorce Mediation in Fort Collins Checklist

Posted in Mediation on January 9, 2020

Divorce mediation can make a difficult time in your life a little easier. Mediation is often faster, simpler and cheaper than the traditional divorce process. A mediator can facilitate open conversations and compromises between you and your soon-to-be-ex-spouse, potentially enabling an agreement so you can both avoid going to court. Use this checklist before your divorce mediation appointment in Fort Collins, Colorado so you can arrive fully prepared. After the mediation is complete, find out what to expect after.

Supporting Documents

Many couples need multiple mediation appointments to settle their divorces because they arrive to their first without important paperwork and supporting documents. To resolve issues such as finances, property division and child custody, you will need to bring certain official documents with you to mediation. These include your past:

  • tax returns
  • W2 forms
  • bank account information
  • income statements
  • evaluations of owned properties or businesses
  • retirement fund information
  • insurance policies
  • debts.

Bring as much documentation of your finances to your appointment as possible to avoid having to reschedule.

An Attorney

It is possible to have a successful mediation without using an attorney to represent you. This may not serve your best interests, however, if you have a complicated divorce case. If this is so, it may be in your best interest to speak with a divorce lawyer. If you will need to work through matters such as child custody, complex assets, high-value properties, businesses, retirement accounts or alimony, you may need a lawyer to help you sort through things. If you hear your spouse has hired a lawyer for mediation, you should probably do the same.

Look for a Fort Collins divorce mediation attorney with special training in handling mediations. Meet with your attorney separately before your mediation. Find one that can help you stand up for yourself and state your priorities clearly. Then, all four of you (both spouses and both attorneys) will meet before a third-party mediator. You may need to sign a no-court agreement that says both attorneys will withdraw if mediation fails and you have to go to court. If your case does proceed to trial after signing this, you would need to hire a new lawyer.

List of Your Priorities

Arrive with a list of your top priorities ready to go. List what matters to you the most in order from greatest to least. If having your kids with you for Christmas is important to you, for example, put it at the top of your list. You may be unmoving on the items at the very top of your list, but more lenient with other items. Your spouse may have a similar list. You can compare them to find any middle ground and areas where compromise is possible. Your spouse may be willing to go your way on one thing if you go his/her way on another.

Pen and Paper

For mediation to be a viable option, both you and your spouse must actively participate in the process. Show that you are committed, interested and willing to work together by arriving with a pen and paper (or a laptop or tablet) to take notes. Prepare to listen, put in your two cents, take notes on what your spouse or lawyer has said, organize your thoughts, and compromise on the factors of your divorce. Mediation is voluntary, not a court requirement. The only way it will work is if you both do your parts.

An Open Mind

Mediation is a collaborative divorce option. It is critical to show up to your mediation with an open mind. Arriving with firm ideas of how it will go could lead to disappointment and failure to reach any agreements. While you should stand your ground on topics that really matter to you, prepare for more of a give and take with your ex-spouse rather than a “my way or the highway” mentality. Your ex-spouse will appreciate your open mind and may perhaps be more willing to compromise with you in return. An open mind and a willingness to compromise will help mediation go smoothly.

Benefits of a Colorado Divorce Mediation

Posted in Mediation on March 22, 2018

For many people, divorce is an upsetting experience. It changes your life not only emotionally, but financially. Over the past few years, couples going through a divorce have begun to use a divorce mediator to try to lessen the emotional and financial blows of a divorce. If you are dealing with a difficult divorce, the experienced divorce attorneys at The Law Office of Stephen Vertucci can offer you guidance and representation.

What Is Divorce Mediation?

Divorce mediation is a process that takes place before going to court. Mediators are trained to help you and your ex-spouse navigate the logistical complexities of a divorce. They have a structured process and serve as an impartial and unbiased third party. The mediator cannot make any decisions or rulings, so they have no say in what the final rulings are in the proceedings. A mediator can help guide conversations, so they remain productive and positive instead of dissolving into arguments and insults.

The Benefits of Divorce Mediation

The first major benefit of divorce mediation is that it is easier for the child. Divorces are often accompanied by fighting and tension, which is hard for a child to experience. It is even more difficult if the child has to go to court and decide which parent they want to live with. Mediators can help you focus on how everything will affect your child instead of getting too absorbed in disputes between you and your spouse.

A mediator can help you and your spouse discuss issues calmly and find a compromise without needing to become aggressive or angry. They are representing both of your best interests, so it is less of a competition.

In many divorces, people lose significant amounts of money. Mediation is a far less expensive option. Mediations usually resolve faster, as getting a court date can take months. The faster your case is resolved, the less money you need to spend on expenses like attorney fees. Because you and your spouse are both working with the same person, your costs are already much less than if you went to court with individual legal representation. Mediation is less about winning than court cases are. In mediation, each person is more focused on compromise and solving problems together as quickly as possible.

Mediation is an extremely empowering experience. Instead of leaving all the work up to an attorney, you and your spouse are sitting down and representing yourselves in a conversation about your future. You and your spouse are in control of the situation.

Advice for Those Seeking Divorce Mediation

If you are entering into a divorce mediation, stay focused on the end result. Even if you and your spouse are angry and upset with each other, it is important to keep the conversations productive, so you can find the best compromise for you both.

Having a great mediator is a vital part of successful divorce mediations. Many mediators will have a background in law, psychology or social work and experience with the divorce laws in your state. The Mediation Association of Colorado specifies the training required to work as a mediator.

Once you have found a mediator, make sure to keep in mind what their role is. Do not go into mediations expecting them to fix your marriage or be a therapist for you and your spouse. Mediations will be more successful if you remember they are there with the specific goal of helping you and your spouse reach a compromise.

If You Are Going Through a Divorce

Mediation can be an extremely effective option to make your divorce as quick and painless as possible. A mediator can save you substantial amounts of money and emotional damage while you are trying to get through an extremely complicated and upsetting time.