Everyone is allowed their day in court; that doesn’t mean you have to use it. Approaching your divorce, you may be looking for alternatives to the lengthy court proceedings dramatized on screen. One such alternative is mediation.
In a mediation, you and your spouse agree on a mediator, a neutral third party who listens to both of your sides, takes stock of what you want, and helps you craft a settlement that leaves you both satisfied. That settlement must then be approved by a judge, but otherwise skips the court proceedings of your average, costly litigation divorce.
Mediation is not for everyone, nor is it the only option for divorce. Consider these reasons for and against mediation before you make any decision.
- Choose your own outcome. A mediator is not a judge or jury and has no power to force you into making a decision. The mediator’s job is to understand what both you and your spouse want, then help you find a compromise that satisfies both of you. That compromise, because it is not being dictated to you, can be as creative as it needs to be.
- Set your own schedule. In litigation cases, you are completely at the mercy of the court’s schedule. In mediation, you decide the time and place. Also, since the final decision ultimately rests with you and your spouse, you decide when it ends. Whereas the average litigation case can take two years, mediations typically take three–six months.
- Spend less. According to Bruce Cameron of Cameron Law PLLC, the average divorce costs $15,000–$20,000 per person. Removing the court from the equation cuts that figure down considerably, as does the potential drop in attorney hours.
- Reserve your privacy. Mediations, unlike litigations, are behind closed doors and kept confidential.
- Maintain your relationship. Especially when you’re pursuing an amicable divorce, a mediation allows both parties to work together in privacy and sets a precedent of cooperation for the post-divorce relationship. This can be especially important when there are children involved.
- Protect your children. Children are sensitive to hostility between their parents, and this sensitivity is magnified during a divorce. By encouraging cooperation, mediation limits or can even remove this hostility and presents a picture of parents working together. Further, you and your spouse have complete control over deciding the terms of custody and can form a settlement that works best for your children rather than having one decided by disinterested third parties.
Not to mediate
- Cooperation is requisite. The mediation is not going to work unless both parties are willing to participate and intend to divorce. In many cases, couples in the early stages of divorce are split, with one partner wanting the divorce and the other wanting to continue the marriage. If both parties can’t agree to the divorce, it will be impossible to decide on the terms.
- It may be unnecessary. Mediation is about settling disputes. If you and your spouse have already reached a settlement on your own, you don’t need any mediation. What you need is a lawyer to get your settlement through the divorce process and get it approved by a judge.
- It may not be enough. Sometimes taking your case to court is the best alternative. If you’re ending the relationship because of abuse or any other issues requiring criminal prosecution, a mediator won’t have the authority to act accordingly.
- It takes two reasonable people. Mediation requires that both parties be willing to make compromises in order to reach a fair settlement. However, if one spouse is naturally inclined to submit to the other, the settlement may come out unbalanced or biased, even though both parties agreed to it. Take stock of yourself and whether or not you can stand up to your spouse or treat them fairly.
If you do decide to go with mediation, remember that there is no such thing as a solve-all solution. Huffington Post contributors J. Richard Kulerski and Kari L. Cornelison say, “Many people see mediation as an end-all, attorney-free process. However, in most instances, those with a mediated settlement still have to hire at least one attorney to process the divorce through the legal system. In addition, mediators are trained to recommend to both parties that they consult with their own attorneys before formalizing any agreement reached in mediation.”
Whatever your decision, Hart Legal is ready to help. Our California offices in family law will help you decide what option is best for you and your family. Contact us today and ask what we can do for you.