Kirsten: So, how are things?
Josh: Not so good.
Kirsten: Why? What’s up?
Josh: You’ve met Paul, Mum’s boyfriend, haven’t you?
Kirsten: Yeah, at your New Year’s Eve party. You and your mum had just moved in to his place.
Josh: Well, he’s left her.
Kirsten: Oh no. How is she?
Josh: Not great. She’s still quite ill. She didn’t want to stay on at the house. She moved out just before the start of the semester. She’s staying with a friend now.
Kirsten: Have you seen Paul since he left?
Josh: Yeah, I went back to the old house last weekend to collect some of our stuff.
Kirsten: How was it?
Josh: It was horrible. There’s another family living there. I think they must be renting from him.
Kirsten: You’re joking! That’s awful!
Josh: Well, it’s not actually our house. It’s still his. About a year ago he and Mum decided to sell their houses and buy a place together. Hers sold, his didn’t and they used the money from mum’s house to have an extension built on his property to make it big enough for us all to live in.
Kirsten: Can she get the money back she spent on the house?
Josh: That’s what she’s worried about. I’ve told her not to think about it; she really doesn’t need the stress right now.
Kirsten: Yeah, sure. But she’s going to be worried, she’ll want to make sure you get left with something. Sorry, I…
Josh: It’s OK. You’re right. Anyway, she wrote to Paul a while back to ask him if he would let her have the money back now that we’re no longer living with him.
Kirsten: And what did he say?
Josh: He never replied. I really don’t want to have to see him again after last weekend
Kirsten: Yeah, I can imagine. Have you taken any legal advice?
Josh: Kind of. I spoke to Gerry Ireland, I have him for property law. He went through some of the possible issues and options with me.
Kirsten: What did he say?
Josh: Well, basically he said that I should avoid getting lawyers involved if at all possible. He said they were seriously bad for your health!
Kirsten: Yeah, and your wealth!
Josh: Yeah, right. Anyway, I’ve got to decide what to do. Mum’s asked me to deal with it. It’s just too much for her right now.
Kirsten: I can’t believe he’s not just given the money back. He must understand she’s worried about your future?
Josh: Yeah, well. Apparently not.
Kirsten: Have you thought about mediation? I can understand Gerry’s advice about lawyers. Once they’re involved it becomes a fight. Maybe it would help if you had someone else to help you and Paul work something out? It would certainly cost a lot less.
Josh: Well, at the moment cost isn’t such a problem. I could probably get Legal Aid. Mediation does make sense, we really don’t want to have to go to court.
Kirsten: Yeah, a lawsuit is the last thing you need!
Josh: I know. Gerry also suggested mediation. He said it’s becoming very common when families break down. Apparently it’s often ordered by the judge in domestic relations disputes. At least, it is in the US.
Kirsten: Domestic relations disputes? Sorry, but it’s weird hearing you talk about this as if you were a disinterested third party.
Josh: Yeah? Well I’ve got to deal with this—so it helps to step back a little sometimes.
Kirsten: Sure. Anyway, can you get Legal Aid for Alternative Dispute Resolution?
Josh: I don’t know. I’ll need to find out. I really hope we can reach some kind of settlement soon, though. I really don’t want to be involved in a lawsuit during my finals.
Kirsten: Too right. And litigation can drag on for years. I’m sure you’ll find some other way to sort this out without having to get lawyers involved.