Why Would Mediation Be A Good Choice?
Some people want their day in court. They're angry or upset, they want to make a point, they feel it is the only place where they will be heard or the only place where they will feel protected. Or they see the process as the perfect method for retribution. But step back a moment and understand what divorce looks like.
All states in the United States recognize no-fault divorce. This means that the spouse asking for the divorce does not have to prove the the other spouse did anything wrong. This also means that the court does not punish someone for their behavior. You are divorcing usually based on Irreconcilable differences. Basically you just don't get along anymore.
And so it doesn't matter what either party did wrong And it doesn't matter how mad either of you are, or how hurt, or how betrayed. A joint marital asset is a joint marital asset, community property is community property, separate property is separate, mixed is mixed. And while there are certainly circumstances that need to be acknowledged and opinions that need to be understood and situations that need to be addressed and which lead to financial re-allocations and alimony awards and custody negations, you can spend $4,400 and a few months or way in excess of $50,000 and a few years and you most likely will get close to the same result.
This is not to say that the court systems is not important and does not offer an essential service for those who cannot work through the many complicated details of their divorce by themselves. But if you are willing, and have someone who can help you navigate the procedural, legal and emotional challenges that you will be faced as you work through our divorce, mediation is a really smart way to pursue your divorce. And while I will never say that your "day in court" may not bring you a different result, it most likely won't be much different than what you and your spouse can create on your own if you work together.
It may not be pretty. Chances are it will be difficult. You won't always get along. The process will be painful and some days will feel impossible. But you will be in control and you will be making the decisions about your future. The Judge that decide the custody schedule, the marital asset allocation or the alimony award doesn't know your kids, your attachment to your home, your struggles or your goals.
Keep control of your lives, work together and make your own choices if you can.
Must Your Mediator Be Certified?
While no state has mandatory mediation certification requirements, there are many programs that offer certification.
Understand what certification means; look at what a mediator had to accomplish to get their certification and look at their experience and knowledge - knowledge not just of how to hold a mediation but also an understanding of the laws the negotiation is based on. Find someone who keeps up on the law, understands the complexities of the issues and can facilitate the communication necessary to get you through this process.
There are many effective models for mediation: facilitative, evaluative, interest based/problem solving, Getting to Yes. Do your research and choose a mediator that matches your style and your needs.
What Is The Difference In Cost Between A Mediation and A Typical Divorce?
My mediations cost $4,400. That's $2,200 for each party. In a traditional divorce, each spouse hires an attorney and each attorney usually asks for a minimum $5,000-$8,000 retainer. You are committed to up to $16,000 before you've even gotten started. But that initial retainer is just the starting point as emotions run high and the legal battle gets underway.
But not only is the cost of a mediation much lower financially, it usually results in a much lower cost in terms of damage to fragile relationships between spouses and children.
Should Your Mediator Be An Attorney?
I've worked with a number of couples who started their divorce process with mediators who were not attorneys. Although these couples found the mediation process helpful, they were often not able to make decisions and fully advocate for themselves because they did not fully understand the law.
I have found that my mediation skills combined with my legal knowledge helps couples become fully prepared to complete their divorce. While I cannot advocate for either one of you, I can explain the law to you and help you understand the ramifications of your choices.
This also helps you when you submit the final agreement that we have created to your own attorney for review. You will have a clear understanding of why you made the choices you made and why you and your spouse came to the compromises you agreed on. Your time with your individual counsel will be that much more cost effective because you will be able to communicate clearly and with knowledge.
What Makes An Effective Mediator?
There is a lot to being an effective mediator. Empathy, experience, the ability to see both sides, balance, listening skills, understanding marriage and child rearing and love and loss, having business experience, the ability to negotiate, being tough, being gentle, a knowledge of the law, a sense of humor and a kind heart. For more about me and my style, please visit my testimonial page.