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Hello. Thanks for contacting us.
You seem incredibly well read and prepared. You have also hit upon one of the problems people sometimes encounter with mediation -- mediators are neutrals. Some are not even lawyers (I trained in mediation, and half the group were psychotherapists) -- so their knowledge is more of the process of getting to an agreement, rather than crafting solutions. Even those who are lawyers can be reluctant to do more than provide "legal facts" -- because the mediation process is designed to assist the spouses in creating their own arrangements within the confines of the law. To make suggestions can sometimes amount to taking sides.
You are right that there is no assurance that a separation will remain such -- and the other side won't eventually want a clean break through divorce (which often happens should a boyfriend or girlfriend want the marker of emotional commitment that marriage can represent).
Possible solutions to protect the spouse who would lose the benefit include:
-- a contingency in the separation agreement
that would provide compensating assets to the spouse that would lose a financial benefit should separation become divorce.
-- a clean divorce with an agreement that the spouse whose plan provides a survivor benefit that he or she purchase life insurance or an annuity in lieu of the coverage that would be lost
-- Or a rejiggering of assets, so that the value of purchasing such a policy is factored in and provided to the spouse who could be left without coverage (essentially adjusting the financials to give a little more than previously agreed to cover this potential).
If there is goodwill (which your description indicates), there may well be room to make this work.
The thing is, because the mediator is a neutral, it may be necessary to have one's own lawyer do a limited number of things to make this happen. This might include analyzing the facts and figures to craft a proposal. I would certainly advise having one's own lawyer review any final settlement before agreeing. It is probably an little extra well-spent (and one still benefits from the lower cost of mediation, rather than the enormous expense of litigating a divorce).
I wish you successful and speedy resolution of this issue.