Mediation is a cheaper and usually more balanced method for resolving disputed divorce issues than sorting them out through expensive, high-conflict litigation.
By undergoing collaborative negotiations guided by an impartial mediator, you and your spouse are in control of determining the outcome of your divorce instead of having a decision forced upon you. It is entirely possible to finalize a divorce without ever having to step in front of a judge.
As this option becomes a more popular method of settling divorce, several misconceptions have developed that may deter couples from attempting mediation.
Here are a few of the common beliefs that some people have about divorce mediation that are not really the case.
If we go the mediation route, there is no reason to hire an attorney
Even if you and your spouse agree that avoiding court is a primary goal, it is still best to have a lawyer who is an advocate specifically for you.
While the mediator’s job is to assist both parties come to an agreeable solution, you will still want a lawyer present to advise you on the specific laws applicable to your case, to draft any official documents and to ensure your best interests are being taken into account.
Although it may seem like an extra expense on top of the mediator’s hourly charge, you will likely end up spending way less than taking the issues to court, as the lawyer would have to spend hours preparing and then litigating the disputes.
Mediation won’t work if we are at opposite ends on important issues
This is actually a situation where mediation can be extremely effective at resolving differences that make both parties walk away happy.
Your trained mediator is skilled at opening closed communications channels, and they are very good at devising crafty solutions. There is a much better chance of both parties feeling their needs were addressed than having a judge pronounce a sentence, in which case one side often feels they were severely disadvantaged.
This can lead to harboring resentment and increase the time it takes to move on.
I can get more out of the divorce if I go to court
This is generally not the case at all. Most mediation resolutions are much more fairly balanced because you and your spouse can consider outside factors that a judge won’t deliberate.
The job of a mediator is to highlight areas of the negotiations that seem unequal and make suggestions on ways to even things out. Between you, your spouse, the mediator and your attorneys, the chances are a much better agreement can be struck than if you let a judge make the decision based solely off his or her perceptions.
It’s much more comforting to be in control of the decisions that will affect the rest of your life than to risk losing more simply for the off-chance that you come out with a slightly better deal — not to mention the money you will save in the process of resolving issues without litigation.
Complex divorce issues can only be resolved in court
Anything that can be decided by a judge can be resolved through mediation. Whether you have child custody issues that are difficult to agree upon or complex finances to split, mediation is still an option.
This is also where it would be useful to have a lawyer present, since they can make suggestions based on the intricacies of the law. While it may seem intimidating, mediators and attorneys are very good at simplifying complex legal jargon down to a level that the average person can understand.
Do not feel that the complicated legal aspects will disadvantage you and that the only option is to let attorneys hash it out in court.
Mediation is the same as marriage counseling
Mediation will help reopen communications channels that may have seemed permanently closed; however, it is by no means meant for couples to reconcile their differences and withdraw their divorce.
Sure, some people may go into the mediation sessions with the hope that things might work out, but that usually does not happen.
It is best to go into these negotiations with an open mind about coming to a fair and reasonable resolution; clinging to the false hope that you might get back together isn’t healthy.
Mediation can be a great alternative for any divorcing couple, regardless of how bitter and conflicted the disagreements may seem.
While success isn’t guaranteed, the chance of avoiding litigation on even a few issues is well worth the cost of a few hours of the mediator’s time.
Mat Camp is a former Lexicon Services Online Editor, who focused on providing a comprehensive look into all aspects of the divorce experience. On MensDivorce.com, he concentrated on issues, such as parenting time, custodial rights, mediation, the division of assets, and so much more.
Mr. Camp used the wealth of experience of Cordell & Cordell attorneys to bring tangible answers to reader questions in Ask a Lawyer articles, as well as offer a step by step process through the divorce experience with Cordell & Cordell Co-Founder and Principal Partner Joseph E. Cordell in Divorce 101: A Guide for Men.
Mr. Camp used thorough research to highlight the challenging reality that those who go through divorce or child custody issues face. He helped foster the continued success of the Men’s Divorce Survival Guide, the Men’s Divorce Podcast, and the Men’s Divorce YouTube series “Attorney Bites.”