It is said that the three most stressful life events are death, divorce and moving (not in any particular order). Divorce can not only be stressful, but also can be an expensive undertaking. When you consider that you have an option during your divorce proceeding to either litigate the matter and let a judge decide how much time and when you will spend with your children and the division of your assets and liabilities, or going to mediation and trying to mutually work out some agreement between the two of you, the second option of mediation has some real benefits that outweigh the litigation route. Some of the benefits include:
- It costs less: In mediation, the parties usually share the cost of the mediator, which is significantly less than the cost for litigating a divorce. The cost for private mediation can be in the range anywhere from $500 to somewhere around $3,000. But the cost to go to court can run you upwards of $20,000 or more.
- You have control: When litigating, the court or judge will make the decision for you and you are stuck with it. In mediation, you only agree to what you want to agree to, and no one can force you to make a decision. You weigh your options and the offers and, if necessary, you make compromises and concessions to get the result you are satisfied with. At least one side will always leave court disappointed and feel they did not get a fair trial. This means they might appeal which will mean your divorce will drag on for years. However, when you reach an agreement at mediation, it is usually not contested and the only things that could happen to prolong the divorce or bring you back are trying to enforce or modify provisions of the agreement in the future. But since the two of you mutually agreed on the terms it is less likely to be litigated in the future when compared to a court order after a trial.
- Mediator handles the paperwork: In mediation, if an agreement is reached, the mediator will prepare and file the settlement documents for you. You will not have to try to prepare and file it yourself. You may then need to go to an uncontested hearing to finalize the case.
- Easier on your children: Divorce is a very stressful situation, and most times a parents’ stress trickles down and affects the children. By going through mediation as opposed to litigation, you will have less stress on you, which in turn will mean less stress on your children. Also when you and your spouse are having trouble agreeing on a schedule of time sharing for your children, the court might appoint someone to interview you, your spouse, and your children in order to make a recommendation to the court, or alternatively, appoint another attorney to represent your children’s interests in court. Having your children become involved like this can place additional stress on them.
- Easier on you: During mediation you are conversing through the mediator and working toward a common goal, instead of allowing your anger fuel a court battle to obliterate the other side. And mediation can last a few hours to maybe a couple of sessions of a few hours over different days. Litigating in court can take years and you are at the mercy of the court’s calendar for availability in order to have decisions made.
- Court remains an option: Choosing mediation does not mean you cannot go to court. Court remains an option if you cannot resolve and settle your divorce during or through mediation. However, in order to get to court, you must attend at least one mediation.
- Management of emotions: Divorce brings out all emotions and you will want to be heard and understood. A good trained mediator will allow to have your emotions addressed without allowing them to dominate any of your decision making.
- Positive building: During mediation you will be encouraged to meet halfway and make some compromises in order to try and resolve your divorce. Both parties will be doing this and it focuses on the future and not any past behavior.
- Confidential: Everything that happens in mediation remains confidential, including all discussions and offers which allows you to consider alternatives. Also you do no forego any legal rights during mediation but if you do not reach an agreement, you are not permitted to go into court and tell the court what was said during mediation. Since mediation is confidential, nothing makes it into public view, however, if you go to court, all your financial information and any disagreements about your parenting will be public record for all to see.
- Process explained: Mediation is very helpful and a good mediator can explain not only the mediation process to you, but also what can possibly happen in court so you can make a better informed decision.
Mediation allows you to control your own destiny and consider your unique issues to find a resolution that is mutually agreeable to both parties. So you should take all of this into consideration as you enter one of the most stressful events in your life.