Benefits Of Divorce Mediation
Using a knowledgeable and skilled mediator to help resolve the issues in your divorce has many benefits:
Likelihood of Success
The cost of a typical divorce with a lawyer for each side litigating all the way through trial nearly always exceeds $50,000. Cases which involve complex property, support or custody issues or high conflict can cost much more. The team approach of collaborative divorce usually costs $20,000 or more given all the professionals often involved, including a lawyer for each party. A comprehensive divorce mediation averages between $1,000 and $3,500.
Divorce mediation usually takes one to four months from beginning to end. The main factors are the complexity of the case, the intensity of the conflict, your availability and the strength of your mutual desire for resolution. Collaborative divorce normally takes longer due to the scheduling challenges of having more professionals involved. A litigated divorce can take much longer given the legal maneuvering and today’s jammed court calendars.
Mediation proceeds according to your schedule. I have some flexibility as to where the sessions are held and I customize the process to you and your spouse. Mediation benefits from the use of online tools such as email and sometimes videoconferencing to make the overall process as efficient and convenient as possible.
Party self-determination is a foundational principle of mediation. It is a voluntary process. You choose your mediator and either of you can stop at any time. You control the scheduling of the mediation and you have some control over the mediation process itself. You can discuss all your concerns and you will be heard and taken seriously. You do not have to make any decisions unless and until you are ready to do so. You therefore retain complete control over the outcome. I will provide you with pertinent information to help you make informed decisions. I can also help you with ideas and options, but I will not pressure you or advise you what I think your decisions should be.
Mediation is an inherently flexible process. I approach each mediation session openly, allowing it to develop in its own unique way. In mediation you can explore creative parenting, financial and tax planning solutions that will benefit all concerned. With few exceptions, a court will not second guess or overrule what you agree to. You can also discuss and make agreements on matters over which a divorce court has no jurisdiction such as how the expenses of a child’s college education are going to be covered.
To promote candor, the mediation process is totally confidential. Mediation therefore allows you to keep your divorce process private. All discussions during mediation are confidential and cannot be revealed in a later court proceeding. The mediator’s files are confidential and the mediator cannot be called as a witness in any court proceeding.
Research has consistently shown that the best way to resolve conflict is through collaboration. In divorce mediation you are encouraged to express your concerns, hear each other and work together to develop solutions that address everyone’s needs. If you have trouble communicating with your spouse, the mediation process will include ways to communicate with each other more effectively. Resolving conflict collaboratively has proven benefits including stimulating learning, growth and trust. It should make it easier for you communicate with each other in the future, should you need to do so.
Dignity and Respect
Although emotions will often flare up in divorce mediation, one of the mediator’s responsibilities is to encourage and maintain a respectful atmosphere and process. Mediation is a dignified approach to divorce. You honor each other by working together to end your marriage through open communication, respect and fairness. Divorce mediation can also provide some opportunity for healing and closure.
Safety and Protection
It’s the mediator’s job to help you feel safe, express all of your concerns, become well informed about the decisions to be made and negotiate competently. If your spouse tends to be overbearing or you have difficulty expressing yourself in the presence of your spouse, the mediator will work to balance the communication and sense of power between you. On occasion it may be best to separate the two of you for part of the mediation, with the mediator shuttling back and forth between you.
Often it is unavoidable or important to express yourself emotionally in divorce mediation. The expression of pent-up feelings can open doors to understanding and resolution. Divorce mediation is an intimate process and a good divorce mediator will make room for this. Animosity is often present going into mediation, but the process is designed to reduce conflict. You can be a candidate for divorce mediation even if strong emotions are currently inhibiting or blocking constructive communication with your spouse. Divorce mediation can be a healing process, although this requires considerable openness from the parties. Such openness may not be there at the beginning, but it will normally increase as the mediation proceeds. Divorce mediation however is not a form of therapy. The focus is on making decisions enabling you both to move forward with your lives.
Studies have shown that when you make your own agreements, compliance rates are much higher than when decisions are imposed upon you. People who have resolved their divorce in mediation are usually better able to resolve any subsequent issues on their own. Mediation also involves building future conflict prevention into the agreements. This is done by making the agreements as unambiguous as possible and by creating guidelines for resolving any disputes that may arise in the future.
Because of all the benefits above, mediation is likely to give you greater satisfaction than any other form of third-party facilitation of your divorce. Also, the informal nature of the process facilitates addressing any areas of dissatisfaction as they arise so they can be quickly resolved.
Your risk is low because divorce mediation is voluntary, confidential, low in cost, and you retain control over decision making. Even if you are unable to resolve all the issues, you will normally resolve at least some of them which will move you forward in your divorce.