Divorce Mediation

Ten Reasons To Try Divorce Mediation

You've decided to seek a divorce. Your nerves are frayed, the in-laws are asking pointed questions, the kids are beginning to act out, and your pleasantness is in the midst of an earthshaking landslide. What can you do? Instead of taking the offensive—hiring a divorce attorney to serve your spouse with a summons and complaint for divorce—you can discuss the possibility of mediation with your spouse. Here is a checklist of reasons why working with a trained divorce mediator can often help:

1. It usually costs less.

When both spouses meet with one divorce mediator, they can share the cost, which is commonly $2,500-$4,000. This usually includes preparation of the papers necessary to file for the uncontested divorce once an agreement is reached by the parties. If the spouses were to retain separate attorneys to represent them in a contested divorce, each would be paying an initial retainer of between $2,500-$10,000—just to get started!

2. You have control.

During the process of divorce mediation, the couple controls how quickly or slowly decisions are made, when the divorce complaint is filed, and what the terms of the divorce will be in the marital settlement agreement. Each step is mutually agreed upon, in contrast to the adversarial process in which attorneys set court dates and judges make decisions with very limited time and information.

3. The paperwork is done for you.

Many people try to do their own divorces but run into difficulty trying to understand the laws and complex paperwork involved. A mediator who is an attorney can explain the entire process to the parties and prepare a proposed marital settlement agreement.

4. It's easier on the children.

For children, the worst aspect of a divorce is the conflict between the parents. Although the process may still be traumatic, they can heal easier knowing that their parents are working together to make adult decisions and will not put them in the middle.

5. You can still go to court.

When one uses divorce mediation, the right to go to court is not forfeited. If you are not satisfied in mediation, you can stop at any time, retain a separate attorney, and have the judge decide the issues. Whatever occurred in mediation will remain confidential, so the parties can start fresh.

6. You get legal information.

In divorce mediation with an attorney-mediator, you will be provided with enough legal information to make your own decisions about what is fair. While an attorney acting in the role of mediator cannot advise either party, the attorney can share his or her general knowledge of how the court might address the issues in your case. Each spouse is also encouraged to consult with a separate attorney for legal advice, especially before signing a marital settlement agreement.

7. Emotions can be managed.

Many people simply want to be heard and understood in the divorce process. However, things can get out of control as each person triggers anger and resentment in the other, often unintentionally. A mediator trained in counseling can assist the parties in acknowledging feelings without allowing feelings to dominate the decision-making process.

8. It's confidential.

In private divorce mediation, all discussions and tentative agreements are confidential. This makes it safe to propose solutions for possible consideration without having them all thought out. This can lead to new solutions neither party had previously considered. Moreover, if either spouse has worked "off the books" during the marriage, the parties can be up front about this fact with the divorce mediator. Unlike a judge, who usually has an ethical obligation to report the unreported income to State and Federal taxing authorities, a divorce mediator is under no such ethical obligation to report the unreported income to the IRS or State income tax bureau.

9. It builds on the positive.

The way your marriage ends will significantly impact the way you approach your future relationships. When you use a mediator to help both of you communicate and make important decisions, it can be easier to move forward and accept the past, rather than turning hurt and anger into an expensive court battle. To win in court, each side is tempted to emphasize negative aspects about the other. In mediation, however, both parties are encouraged to recognize the positive in the other person, finding common ground for agreement. Whatever goodwill remains between the parties should be preserved instead of destroyed, especially when there will be future contact between the parties, such as co-parenting.

10. It's up to—not a judge.

Whatever you decide, you can know that the decision was your own, not a judge ordering you to accept what (s)he thinks is reasonable for your situation.