If your marriage is coming to an end, this can be a very stressful life transition, especially if there are children involved. Many couples think that their only option is to “lawyer up” during a divorce. What most couples don’t realize as they start down this road is that this can be a very expensive proposition. Once a lawyer is hired to represent someone in a custody or divorce suit, they will be paying for every single phone call, email or paper their attorney and/or their support staff touches in their case. So if your lawyer charges the going rate of $300 per hour or $75 to $150 per hour for their staff, you will be billed for every tenth of an hour each of these professionals spend on your one email sent. That means one email could cost you $100 or more. Those kind of expenses may not be in everyone’s budget.
But there is a better way- Divorce Mediation. Mediation is a much more cost effective and peaceful way for couples to transition from one household to two as their marriage ends. Through divorce mediation, couples can avoid costly, painful, lengthy court battles. The couples, not the courts, will negotiate the settlement of all the issues involved in their divorce including property matters, support payments and custody sharing. This is accomplished through the assistance of a divorce mediator who will help facilitate settlement discussions between the couple without the traditional costly legal expenses of the divorce and custody courts.
Most divorce mediators have different fee structures that allow the couple to plan for and understand exactly what the cost of their divorce mediation will be. In addition, divorce mediation is more cost effective because the couple will not be paying two lawyers to communicate for them but will be speaking directly to one another with the assistance of one divorce mediator.
Below are some answers to common questions about divorce mediation that I hear. These may help you determine if mediation is right for you.
Divorce mediators are skilled at facilitating peaceful conversations between divorcing couples. So long as the couple is committed to resolving their differences in a more amicable way instead of through the adversarial process of the courts, divorce mediation can work for most couples. This is because divorce mediation actually helps instill in couples a better way to communicate about important issues. This can be very helpful for the couple going forward as they may face future difficult conversations such as those surrounding their children even after the divorce mediation ends. In addition, a divorce mediator will often encourage each person to have their own emotional support such as a therapist who can also help the couples learn better communication skills individually.
A divorce mediator works to establish a safe space for both parties to discuss important issues in their divorce. A skilled divorce mediator serves as neutral facilitator who will intervene during difficult discussions in order to balance any power struggles between the couples surrounding the issue being discussed. However, if there has been any domestic violence between the parties, divorce mediation may not be the best route to settle divorce issues.
It can be helpful to consult with an attorney to understand what you may be entitled to under the law during a divorce. However, any attorney will tell you that there are no guarantees in court. In addition, couples can decide what works best for them and their family in their marital settlement agreement which does not have to follow any particular court guidelines.
Attorneys may be consulted outside of the divorce mediation sessions but the parties can’t participate in mediation sessions if they are represented by attorneys in certain states. If a person wants to try a peaceful settlement route but still wants to retain an attorney, they may consider hiring a collaboratively trained lawyer who could represent them in settlement discussions without litigation. However, collaborative law settlements are not as cost effective as divorce mediation settlements.
Divorce mediators who are serving a party strictly as a mediator and who are not licensed to practice law can only draft memorandums of understanding memorializing the terms and conditions agreed upon by the couple in divorce mediations. A memorandum of understanding is not a legally binding document per se. In order to create a legally binding marital settlement agreement incorporating all the terms and conditions agreed upon as outlined in a memorandum of understanding, the couple must take the memorandum to an attorney to draft a legally binding marital settlement agreement or if the mediator is a licensed attorney, the divorce mediator can serve as a drafter of the legally binding marital settlement agreement as well.
The courts are adversarial. They teach people how to fight. The decisions made in court are the result of what the lawyers and the judges say not what the parties want or decide. If the couple has children, the adversarial court system can cause even more bitterness between the couple which can make co-parenting even more difficult which in turn can be very harmful to the children involved.
In short, it may be worthwhile for any couple facing divorce to consider investigating mediation as an option. Contact me if you have further questions about divorce mediation.
If you are interested in a consultation to discuss the options available to resolve your divorce, custody issues, support, or equitable distribution issues, please contact me and I can help you investigate your options, including divorce mediation. Call me, Lenore M.J. Myers, at 215-470-3121 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.