Assumptions and Triggers
One very effective way of assisting mediation participants to visualize their support discussion is to chart each of their support concepts. The x axis is designated as the duration of support and the y axis is designated as the amount of support. This charting is perhaps best done on a flip chart for the parties to simultaneously consider. One color marker can be utlized to show the wife's suggestions for support amount and duration and another color marker can be utilized to show the husband's suggestions for support amount and duration. In so graphing spousal support, the mediator can show the degree of overlap (agreement) and difference (disagreement) in the parties thinking.
In addition to all of the challenging emotional-relational issues associated with spousal support, most mediation participants will also negotiate this issue with "white knuckles." The contemplated recipient will fear the worst (that schooling might take longer than planned or that hoped for income may not develop as quickly as desired). The contemplated payor will fear that his or her income will decrease or that the recipient will have increased earnings over those assumed. One way of dealing with these fears is to make the assumptions underlying the support arrangements explicit. These assumptions can form a benchmark against which future reality can be evaluated. If, for example, the payor's income is assumed to be $4,000 monthly and only turns out to be $3,000 monthly, then the parties, perhaps as part of an annual review, can make an equitable adjustment. Conversely, if there was an assumption that the recipient would be making $2,000 monthly two years following the divorce and she is only making $1,000, then that fact can be appropriately taken into consideration.