By Belinda Rachman, Esq
The divorce process is so complicated most people just don’t want to deal with it on their own. Traditionally the process of getting a divorce has involved hiring lawyers, going to court and letting a judge or the lawyers decide and/or negotiate the outcome. The couple plays the most passive role in the legal drama. Because the decisions are coming from above instead of the couple themselves fashioning a result, it is often difficult for the couple to comfortably live with the final outcome.
Most people resent solutions that are imposed on them. It is natural that individuals are more satisfied when they get to decide for themselves instead of being told what to do. When the couple is more actively involved in creating the terms of their own divorce instead of having to put up with the “one size fits all” solution that the legal process gives them, there is a better fit and more of a commitment to make it work.
So here is the most important question, does it make sense to avoid the adversarial legal system for your divorce? If keeping out of court and saving money on legal fees while protecting your assets and co-parenting relationship sounds good to you, then you really ought to explore mediation. I am not saying mediation is for everyone, but if the two of you are decent people who just want out, no one is trying to hurt the other one and both of you are honest and reliable about money with enough honor to keep your word, then you are the perfect client for mediation.
What A Mediator Does
The attorney who acts as mediator does not represent either party but acts as a neutral facilitator who is a resource for both. The couple can ask the attorney/mediator legal questions and receive help in arriving at all the terms of their divorce. The mediator drafts the marital settlement agreement, which is the document that is attached to the Judgment. The judge signs the agreement without the couple ever going to court and the divorce becomes final 6 months from the day the initial papers were filed and served. When the mediator has a powerful intention to complete the divorce process instead of dragging it out, the results are miraculous.
How Much Does Mediation Cost?
Prices for mediation are determined by expertise and where you are located so make several calls, interview several mediators to make sure you are fully informed. In my own practice the whole process, on average, takes between 4-7 hours but there is certain homework that must be done prior to working with me. Ask the mediator what percentage of their cases settle and how many meetings did it take. In California the average cost when both sides have their own attorney is $40,000 so whatever the mediator charges will be a tiny fraction of that. The financial benefits of mediation are obvious but more importantly, you will be comfortable enough with your spouse to co-parent your children. This is the best gift you can give to your children. I ought to know, I was one of those kids caught in the middle. This is why I do what I do. Using mediation instead of litigation brings some sanity back into the divorce process because the adversarial system destroys families. So ask yourself, what kind of divorce do you want? Peaceful divorce is an idea whose time has come.
How To Choose A Mediator
So let’s assume you want to proceed with mediation. You want to make sure the mediator you use has a great track record. The most important thing you want to know is how many couples have they worked with and what percentage settled. Once you find that out you can compare price, length of time it takes and other factors like personality and sex of the mediator before you make up your mind. The important thing is to have all the information you need to make an informed decision. Remember you only get one chance to have a “good divorce” so don’t go down the wrong road because you won’t like the destination.
Is Mediation Right For You
Divorce mediation works best with honest people who are not hiding assets and just want a result that is fair. Most couples who are in the initial stages of thinking about getting a divorce would do well to meet with a divorce mediator as opposed to hiring their own attorneys. You only get one chance at getting a divorce without acrimony. Once you start to go down that adversarial road, it is that much harder to get back to a place where you can function comfortably as co-parents.