There is simply no getting around that fact that the end of almost any marriage is a time fraught with intense emotions, tension, and conflict. Hurt feelings, worries about the future and the well-being of any children, and the practical issues of property division and support can create a perfect storm for lengthy, expensive, and destructive divorce litigation.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
Many couples find that mediation can be a path that keeps them away from the courthouse and on the road to a quicker, more amicable, and less expensive resolution of the many matters that need to be resolved between them. Mediation can create an atmosphere that keeps emotions in check, leads to effective discussion and compromise, and leave the parties with an agreement they can both feel good about as they move forward with hope and clarity towards their lives as individuals.
What is Mediation?
While there are many different kinds of mediation varying in styles and procedures, it is fundamentally a process through which a neutral third-party listens to the concerns, perspectives, and wishes of the participants, and works with them to find areas of common ground and agreement. Mediators are trained in dispute resolution and negotiation techniques designed to facilitate consensus and reduce discord.
Mediators cannot force the parties to agree or impose solutions on them. Mediation puts the parties in control of their destinies, as opposed to a judge deciding important issues for them. This control is a key benefit of mediation, as any agreement reached voluntarily is less likely to lead to anger, dissatisfaction, and resentment than a judge’s order that may leave one party feeling like they got the short end of the stick.
Cheaper, Quicker, Better
Control over your divorce and your future isn’t the only thing that makes mediation an attractive option for divorcing couples. Other major benefits include:
- Reduced Cost. Litigation of any kind tends to be expensive and divorce litigation is no exception. Litigation is adversarial by nature, putting both sides in a defensive crouch, suspicious of the other’s motives and actions, and ready to attack if it is deemed advantageous. All of this costs money – lawyers filing motions, lengthy and repeated court appearances, extensive discovery and investigation. Even if the divorce settles before trial, as most divorces do, it doesn’t take long for the attorney’s fees to add up. Mtediation allows the parties to eliminate these costs by skipping over trial preparation and the discovery process to focus on identifying important issues and working to resolve them immediately.
- Less Time. There are more divorcing couples than there are judges, and the court only has so much time in one day. In divorce litigation, you are at the mercy of the court’s schedule. This means it might takes weeks or even months to hold a hearing on a single issue. With mediation, you are in control of the timetable. Additionally, resolving your divorce sooner rather than later results in less stress for the parties and any children involved.
- Better Results When people say that they “want to have their day in court,” what they are really saying is that they want to tell their side of the story and have someone really and thoughtfully listen to them and understand their concerns. Mediation gives both sides an opportunity to do just that in a way that litigation simply doesn’t allow, with rules of evidence and procedures limiting constructive dialogue and the voices of attorneys heard more often than those of the couple. Mediation allows for better understanding and a can lead to a feeling of catharsis that opens the door for better solutions.
As a certified divorce and relationship mediator, I have seen first-hand the benefits that mediation can have during a difficult time. To be sure, mediation is not right for all divorces, and not all mediation leads to agreement. But it is the rare couple who should not at least consider this constructive alternative to destructive litigation.