Dispute & Resolution – June 6, 2019

We want a divorce

Background

Natalie and Jeremy dated through high school and college. They lived together for three years after college and then got married. Natalie teaches elementary school and Jeremy is an engineer. They have two Great Danes that they rescued, but no children. They are buying a house and have two vehicles. They have no debt

Natalie and Jeremy agree they do not want to continue in their marriage.

Discussion

Natalie and Jeremy met me at my office. They cooperatively told me that Jeremy moved out of their house about six months ago. He is living with a friend rent-free. One of the Great Danes is more attached to Natalie, and the other is more attached to Jeremy. The dogs are very attached to each other. Jeremy would like to eventually take the dog that is more attached to him, but cannot do so at this time.

Natalie agrees to take care of Jeremy’s dog on the condition that she can keep the dog if he decides to give it away. Jeremy agrees. Natalie and Jeremy agree they should each take the car they primarily use. Natalie would like to stay in the house. Jeremy agrees, so long as Natalie refinances the mortgage, occupies the house and pays him $45,000. If Natalie moves out of the house or decides to sell it, Jeremy has first option to buy it back for its appraised value.

With no other issues to resolve, I drafted an agreement. While I was drafting, Natalie said she wants Jeremy to agree to buy the house back from her in two years. Jeremy isn’t certain that he would want to commit to buying the house back. He would rather have the option to do so.

Natalie then changed her mind about staying in the house and taking care of the Great Dane that would ultimately move with Jeremy. She thinks she would rather move out and take “her” dog with her.

Jeremy is so upset about Natalie’s change of mind that I moved him into a separate conference room so I could speak to him privately.

We explore the options: Jeremy moves into the house and buys out Natalie’s interest or they sell the house and split the proceeds. Jeremy can’t move into the house now because he can’t afford to pay the mortgage. He has gone back to school to earn his master’s degree and won’t be finished for about a year.

Even if the house is sold, what is Jeremy going to do with his dog? I asked Jeremy if he would like to buy the house in 12 months. He would so long as Natalie would stay in the house for the next 12 months, pay the mortgage, taxes and insurance and take care of the maintenance and most importantly, take care of his dog.

I meet with Natalie who discloses she is involved with a new man and thinks she may like to move in with him in the next year or so. She isn’t sure she wants to be committed to the house. She does not want Jeremy to know about her new love interest. I ask Natalie if she could agree to stay in the house for the next 12 months, take care of Jeremy’s dog and pay the expenses related to the house. Natalie would like to stay in the house in the short term and is glad to take care of Jeremy’s dog. However, at the end of the 12 months she wants Jeremy to pay her $50,000 and refinance the mortgage.

Resolution

Jeremy agrees to Natalie’s final offer: On June 1, 2020, he will purchase the house from Natalie and will buy out her $50,000 equity interest. He will pay all expenses related to his dog and will give Natalie plenty of advance notice when he wants to take the dog for a visit.

For the next 12 months Natalie will pay the mortgage, taxes, insurance and maintenance costs for the house and she will take care of Jeremy’s dog.

Mediator Notes

The time spent in mediation was three hours at the hourly rate of $250. I agreed to prepare the final documents for an additional $500.

If you have a dispute you would like me to consider in this column contact me at 801-994-6000 or [email protected]. You can also check out my website at www.krisrogers.com.