John and Kathleen: 7 Years of Marriage To a Divorce Story In Ohio

Steven Leskin


John and Kathleen had been married for seven years. John worked as a manager in the produce section of a supermarket. He earned about $50,000/annual. Kathleen had taken time out of her career as a dental hygienist to raise the couple’s two children. She intended to go back to work once the kids were in school, ages 3 and 7. She wanted to be the kind of mom who was home for her children after school. She earned about $72,000/annually before quitting work to start her family.

The couple had about $40,000 in equity in the house. John had $80,000 in retirement savings through work. Kathleen did not have retirement savings, but she had a small investment account with about $11,500 in it.

At mediation, Kathleen took the position that she wanted to stay in the house. Kathleen was concerned about uprooting the kids and creating additional change and turmoil in their lives. Kathleen knew she would receive child support, but she also wanted spousal support until both kids were old enough to take care of themselves after school. After that, she would go back to work.

At mediation, John took the position that he wanted to sell the house now so that he could get back the down-payment so he could get into a new place. He also knew that he would be paying child support, but he was concerned that he would not have enough cash month to month to afford a new living situation and pay spousal support. He was opposed to equally splitting the retirement account since he came into the marriage with $20,000 in that account.

The most difficult issue for the parties was the house. Kathleen was anxious about moving, qualifying for a loan, and finding a location close to good schools and her possible next job. John did not want to pay a year of rent, and lose out on a year of building equity in the house.

The parties started talking about various options: Kathleen could stay in the house for some period of time after which the house would be sold, the house would be sold now and the proceeds split, or Kathleen would try to figure out how to buy out John’s interest.

Eventually, with the help of the mediator, the parties agreed that Kathleen would receive sufficient spousal support to afford to make the mortgage payments. She would stay in the house for two more years, and make the mortgage payments. Kathleen also agreed that John could take a larger portion of the home’s equity as a way of making up for the equity he was losing for two years. They agreed to a 75/25% split in the profits from the sale of the home after the mortgage was paid. Since John would have been entitled to 50% of the profits, he was essentially getting half of Kathleen’s share of the equity from the date of the divorce forward.

Since Kathleen was staying in the house, it was fair that she pay the mortgage and the spousal support would cover the payment.

Regarding John’s retirement account, John produced documentation at mediation, that the balance in the account was about $19,400 at the time of marriage. That reduced the amount to be divided to $59,600. If Kathleen kept her $10,000 investment account, that meant that John could transfer $19,000 to satisfy his division of the retirement account.

At this point, it looked like the parties were doing well in the mediation when the mediation turned to parenting time. The parties agreed that they would both accept a joint custody arrangement. In Oregon, courts may not impose joint custody. During discussions about parenting time, John demanded that Kathleen not introduce the children to any new boyfriends. This was an issue for John since the marriage collapsed when Kathleen had an affair.

After a lot of back and forth, both parties agreed that they would not introduce the children to any new friends until they had known the person for six months and gave the other an opportunity to first meet the new boyfriend or girlfriend. They did this in order to create the most stable environment for the children.

With this hurdle cleared, John and Kathleen went on to create a practical, workable parenting plan. It helped them to move forward when they realized that the parenting plan could be changed later to accommodate their schedules as long as both parties agreed to a change. In time, they were both confident that they would continue to parent well together.

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