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Mediation Case Law Video: Divorce Agreement Complications

by James Coben
May 2013

This video is part of a series of instructional Mediation Case Law Videos.

James Coben
In Guthrie v. Guthrie, 594 S.E.2d 356 (Ga. 2004), the validity of a divorce agreement was called into question due to one party's state of mind at the signing. A complicating issue was husband's death during the proceedings.

The appellate court held that trial court acted erroneously in granting summary judgment denying enforcement of mediated divorce settlement agreement under rules utilized to resolve whether to incorporate a settlement agreement into a final divorce judgment, where husband died during pendency of divorce proceedings, but the parties' agreement contained provisions that were to take effect immediately or shortly after the date the agreement was executed, indicating it was not contingent upon issuance of a divorce judgment and in such cases enforcement is evaluated under ordinary rules of contract construction.

Note: The decision implicitly affirmed the additional conclusion of the Court of Appeals that summary judgment in favor of enforcement also was inappropriate where allegations of capacity to contract -- specifically that a party "had suffered anxiety attacks, had consumed at least four doses of Valium, and was bereft of energy and mental concentration" -- raised jury questions about whether there was a meeting of the minds sufficient to create a contract. See Guthrie v. Guthrie,577 S.E.2d 832 (Ga. App. 2003).

For the past decade, as part of the annual Minnesota State Bar Association ADR Institute, Hamline Professor James Coben has been producing short videos illustrating mediation litigation. Mediate.com is proud to now assist in the further distribution of these exceptional teaching and learning resources.

This enactment may portray "less than optimal" mediator performance. Rest assured that you are not at risk by hiring any of the ADR Institute Players as neutrals (or lawyers), despite what you see on the tape. The videos are fictional reenactments of the mediations underlying the published litigated cases.

Biography


Professor James Coben, a senior fellow in Hamline's Dispute Resolution Institute ("DRI") which he directed from 2000-2009, teaches civil procedure, dispute resolution practices, mediation, and negotiation. He also pioneered a variety of innovative ADR clinical opportunities for law students, including mediation advocacy on behalf of clients in family law and employment cases. More recently, he has focused his energies on development of international ADR educational opportunities.

Professor Coben created the Mediation Case Law Project - a systematic attempt to catalogue litigation trends about mediation, as well as produce and distribute innovative teaching videos, and other resources to ADR academics, practitioners, and trainers.



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