Thursday, August 10, 2006

“I Told You I Was Sick!”

The tombstone in the picture is actually located in the cemetery in Key West, Florida.

What does it have to do with mediation? Nothing really, and yet . . . . In the Fourth District Court of Appeal case of Marlowe v. Brown, et al., 2006 Fla. App. LEXIS 12852 [Fla. 4th DCA 2006], the appellate court framed this question: Does a “mediation settlement agreement” entered into at the beginning of the divorce case [i.e. a ‘mediation agreement for temporary relief’] control the distribution of property after the husband’s death [which occurred before the entry of a final judgment of dissolution of marriage]?

The agreement did not specify what would happen if one of the parties died during the pendency of the divorce action [would you have thought to include this type of provision?]. By the way, the husband, prior to his death, moved to set aside the mediation agreement contending that the agreement was procured by mediator misconduct and that the equitable distribution paragraph was merely an “agreement to agree”. Motion denied! Thereafter [well, not immediately thereafter – it was actually 9 months later], the husband died and there had been no final judgment of dissolution, no valuation of properties, and no plan of equitable distribution. Shortly after the husband died, the wife filed a motion to dismiss the divorce case. Another motion denied! Thereafter [well, not immediately thereafter – it was actually 22 months later], the wife died.

There was much more procedurally and, all to say, the appellate court answered the above question with a “no” and held that the dissolution of marriage action terminated with the death of the husband and the trial judge should have granted the wife’s motion to dismiss the case. The opinion is worth reading especially those sections which focus on the appellate court’s view of the mediation agreement.

So, even mediated temporary relief agreements need to be detailed and, as to certain contingencies, well . . . .

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