Mediation is the most sensible way to divorce, but when was your (almost) ex ever sensible?
Mediation is becoming a better-known option in the divorce arena, but it is still not well-publicized, and therefore not well understood by those of us who never had to deal with a major legal dispute prior to our divorce. Unfortunately, the gut reaction on the part of someone who has just come to the agonizing decision to divorce is, therefore, to “lawyer up.” Despite current common notions, however, mediation is not only an option for couples who are super-friendly, child-free and light on assets.
1. Familiarize yourself with the key benefits of mediation.
It’s pretty tough to get anyone to agree with a suggestion if you don’t really know that much yourself about what you are asking them to do with you. Here are three of the most beneficial aspects of a mediated divorce.
- Shortened time-frame. Due to the overwhelming caseload in the family court system, it now takes an average of 2-3 months to even be seen by a judge for the first of what will be MANY hearings. Mediation sessions take place at the pace and frequency each couple and their mediator determine will best meet their needs, schedule and budget.
- Significantly reduced costs. Statistics show that a mediated divorce process costs 90% less than a litigated process for a comparable case (Boston Law Collaborative, 2007). Given that the current average cost of a litigated divorce in Los Angeles runs around $50,000 per party, this means an average savings of $90,000 per couple!
- Confidentiality of highly sensitive personal information. Information exchanged over the course of mediation is kept entirely confidential, whereas evidence demanded and exchanged in court proceedings becomes public record. These records may be accessed by creditors, employers, and other any other interested parties, including, if they so desire, your children in the future. Choosing to mediate keeps your finances, ugly allegations and personal details exactly where they belong – in your private life.
2. Find a Mediator who is will offer a complimentary consultation. Then find another 2.
Mediation is a fast-growing profession, and once you begin your search you will find mediators with a wide variety of mediation styles and educational backgrounds. It often happens that no matter how expert a mediator you may find, your spouse may be reluctant to trust that mediator simply because YOU found him or her. By interviewing one mediator you find, one your spouse finds, and a third you possibly even choose together at random, you will more likely than not find a mediator you both click with. For all the credentials they each list, the MOST important quality a mediator can have is making both of you feel comfortable with the process.
3. Reach out to your spouse through the type of communication he or she prefers.
Whether or not you initiated the divorce, asking your spouse to consider mediation as an alternative to litigation is the extension of an olive branch. And no one has ever done well using an olive branch to hit someone over the head. Even if it annoys to no end that your spouse insists on texting instead of calling, calling instead of emailing, or emailing instead of meeting face-to-face, your goal at this time is to be heard. So use the method of communication your spouse is most comfortable with to convey this important message that you have both of your best interests at heart.
4. Allow your spouse to make the first call.
Again, you are laying down a path for a comfortable divorce process. Once your spouse has heard your suggestion of choosing mediation, and perhaps your suggestions of which mediator you might engage, offer your spouse this choice: would they like you to make the call to set up a consultation, or would they prefer to make the first call themselves. You are holding up white flags of peace, not surrender, over and over again—letting your spouse know that you value their opinion and see them as a full partner in the selection process.
5. Keep in mind that it is never too late to wash, rinse and repeat.
No matter how hard you try and no matter how logically you may present your case, your spouse just may not be willing to consider mediation. Yet. Some people have a very firm belief that the court system will be their safest bet for a “fair” settlement. After a round or two (three or even four) with the inevitable frustrations, quirks and financial bleeding of that system’s reality, you will likely find an opportunity to repeat steps 1-4 above. It is never too late to pause and set up an appointment with a mediator. In fact, your judge will respect and congratulate you both for doing so. Your attorneys can come with you, or you can put them on hold as well, and check your options. You are making decisions that will affect the rest of your lives and lives of your children, so don’t be bashful about holding firm in your hope and request for a more peaceful resolution.
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