The present and future of divorce mediation
Statistically in 1995, it is estimated that only one out of every fourteen divorces were settled through mediation. But based upon the incredible growth of divorce mediation over the past years, it can be reasonably estimated that, within the next ten years, more than 50% of divorcing couples will be mediating their own divorces.
Most people don’t know what divorce mediation really is. And many divorcing couples are afraid of it because of their lack of understanding and knowledge about how mediation works and the fear of not getting what’s fair in your divorce settlement. Divorce mediation isn’t some hocus pocus, mysterious method of getting divorced. It’s a sane, effective, cost efficient and realistic approach to settling issues that need to be resolved in order to become divorced.
The goal of mediation is to resolve the issues needed in order to get divorced in a fair and equitable manner. If you really think about it, this should be the goal of our judicial system as well. However, we all know it isn’t. Our courts and legal system were founded on the precept that is embedded in the symbolic “scale of justice”…equality for all. What a bunch of hogwash. That may have been the intent of our forefathers, but somewhere during the 200+ year history of our legal system, what has emerged is simply an expensive and convoluted system that is impossible to understand and even more impossible to work through. Yet, from my experience, I can state with the utmost of confidence that most couples who choose to get divorced through our legal system, receive fair, equitable and reasonable settlements of all of the issues which need to be resolved. But the irony of the entire legal process is that it simply doesn’t make logical sense. The results may be fair…but the process is too expensive, too confusing, too mysterious and too long.
What most people don’t seem to understand about divorce mediation is that the only difference between mediated divorce and a lawyer controlled divorce proceeding is that you are settling the issues needed to become divorced yourself instead of having attorneys do it for you. Mediation allows the couple to make the exact same decisions as attorneys would if you gave them the authority to do so. In other words, by mediating your own divorce, you’re cutting out the middle man…and saving a tremendous amount of money, time and keeping control of the process and the final results. Mediation replaces the need for you to hire two complete strangers (lawyers) to conduct a war to resolve the issues involved in your separation or divorce. With the aid of a professional divorce mediator, you make all the decisions regarding the terms of your divorce.
Statistics clearly show that many couples are choosing to mediate their divorce rather than litigate their divorce. Divorce mediation is growing rapidly and there is a reason for this phenomenal growth. It simply makes sense – from a financial perspective and an emotional perspective.
There are many misconceptions about divorce mediation. Most people think that, in order to get divorced, you have to hire experts (high priced attorneys) to make decisions that can get you the best results. The reality is that there are only three main issues that need to be decided…parenting, support and division of assets. A qualified divorce mediator can provide you with the information you need to make these decisions and relate that to what the courts require in order to come up with an agreement which is fair and mutually acceptable to both parties.
Studies have shown that many people feel that there is a significant risk in trying to settle these issues without an attorney present. And that is a viable concern. Except that each spouse has protection. And the protection is assured by each spouse hiring their own attorney to advise them. The key word is “advise”.
The real benefits of mediation are that:
- you save a lot of money by settling the issues yourselves,
- you save a tremendous amount of time and can get on with your lives much faster, and
- you are in control of the options and results.
And since you have an attorney to advise you and answer any questions you may have, you are both protected from making decisions that may not be in your best interest.
What’s the worst possible outcome of mediation? Eventhough 94% of my clients completely settle all of the issues that need to be resolved in order to get divorced, there are 6% who don’t. What happens to them? The answer is simple. They take the unresolvable issues to their respective attorneys and have them work on resolving them. So what have you lost? Even if you are not able to settle 100% of the issues, which reduces the work needed to be done by your attorneys. And therefore saves you a lot of money, time and aggravation.
Don’t be afraid of mediation. A good divorce mediator knows all of the issues that need to be resolved in order to obtain a legal and fair divorce. The mediator’s responsibility is to make you aware of these issues and help you come up with solutions that are mutually agreeable. Divorce isn’t rocket science. Actually, there are only three main areas that need to be resolved – parenting, support and property division. A trained divorce mediator knows all of the specifics of these three areas and helps you through the decision making process. Technically, it’s not that difficult. Emotionally, it can be. And that’s where the real benefit of mediation occurs.