When most people consider divorce or related issues, such as child custody, support or a community property division, they think about the courtroom. Filing pleadings and arguing in front of a judge come to mind. However, a heated courtroom battle is not the only way to resolve legal conflicts. For most people going through a divorce, the high-conflict that is inherent in the legal system can produce unintended results that may linger for years and actually increase conflict with divorcing couples over time.
How can divorcing couples sidestep this high-conflict land mine? One option is to consider mediation. Mediators provide a private setting in which couples can work together to resolve their differences. The mediator is neutral, meaning that he or she does not represent the interest of either person. He or she is there to help the couple identify common goals and possible solutions. Before you assume that mediation could never work in your case, at least ponder “Is Mediation Right for You?” Mediation might be right for you, if:
- You believe that you can make better decisions for your family and/or regarding your finances than a judge. The best decisions are ones made with knowledge of all important facts. Even the best family courts do not have unlimited time to hear and learn all of the important facts related to your family and your finances and this puts you in a better position to make these decisions.
- Your relationship with your ex-spouse must continue beyond the current issues. You can divorce your spouse, but the two of you will continue to be parents even after the judgment of divorce is signed. When you go to court to fight about issues related to the children, you are necessarily in a position of having to attack your ex-spouse (who also happens to be the mother/father of your children). Once the judge chooses a “winner” in this legal battle, the two of you are sent off to place nice and “co-parent” your children. Mediation provides a setting where you can work toward resolutions that preserve the dignity of both parents.
- You prefer to keep your family and finances private. Divorces naturally involve the gathering of a good deal of private financial information, whether it is to determine child support, spousal support or to divide marital assets. What most people do not realize is that at a hearing before a judge, it is necessary to introduce this private financial information into evidence. This means not only do the persons in the courtroom hear all of your private financial information, but it is recorded by the clerk of court for anyone to see. Agreements reached in mediation may still need to include reference to some of this information, but you would not be required to file the details of this private information into the public record.
- You have a strong desire to keep legal costs to a minimum. Having your day in court is costly. Estimates for the average divorce in the United States are around $15,000. These costs can skyrocket when both persons are entrenched in their positions and keep the battle alive. Mediation allows you to control the costs of the process in a couple of ways. First, you and your spouse can share the costs of the mediator (whose fees are typically comparable to that of an attorney). Second, you can schedule the mediation sessions in a way to allow you to budget the costs.
- You want to control the timing of the process. Once you have become entangled in the court system, you are generally at the mercy of the court’s schedule. Sometimes hearings are scheduled before you are ready to address certain issues. In that case, you might incur additional fees in order to buy more time to decide or you might settle on an agreement that isn’t quite right just to meet the impending deadlines. Other times, hearings are scheduled several months into the future when you feel that an issue needs to be addressed immediately. In that case, unless there is a real emergency, you will simply have to wait until your hearing date. Mediation allows you to schedule sessions in keeping with the needs of your family.
These are just some of the advantages of mediation as compared to the traditional legal system. Even if you are already part of the traditional legal system, it isn’t too late to try mediation. If you are interested in learning more about mediation, call our office at 985-624-9696 to schedule a consultation.