Mediation is one of the viable alternatives for people who want to avoid going to court. In this process the spouses select a neutral third party to facilitate an agreement that they can both live with.
They meet with the mediator as often as necessary to hammer out arrangements regarding property, child custody, support, and all the other issues that must be resolved in a divorce agreement. If communication bogs down, the mediator’s task is to bring the parties back together and refocus them on the task at hand.
Mediation offers a number of advantages over the adversarial approach:
1. It saves time. When you litigate your case in court, your progress is tied to the court’s calendar, which almost guarantees a long timeline. When you finally get your day in court, it may be just the beginning of a seemingly endless ordeal. Each new issue may require a new court date and another long wait. These appearances often require the participation of all the parties. What if one doesn’t show up in court? It’s back to the calendar for another court date, and another delay. Meanwhile, the legal fees keep mounting—and your life is on hold. By contrast, mediation can proceed according to any schedule you agree on with your spouse and the mediator.
2. It’s less expensive. The court process we’ve described can wind up costing both parties a lot of money. Beyond the court appearances, numerous other activities will rack up legal bills. The discovery process that accompanies litigated divorce— whereby the parties request and provide pertinent information to each other—can chew up substantial time and money all by itself. In mediation the time can be shortened considerably.
3. It’s less emotionally draining. As we’ve seen, hurt feelings can drive people to do things that aren’t in their best interests—such as quarrel over issues that really don’t matter or pick fights they can’t win. If your breakup has already been emotionally devastating, consider whether you really want to keep excavating those wounds. Mediation provides the chance to reach a reasonable conclusion without escalating to all-out war. Of course, the emotional toll is much greater when there are children involved. Choosing the more peaceable route can lessen their emotional trauma as well as your own.
4. It allows for open communication. When divorcing spouses retain attorneys, among the first things they’re told is not to communicate directly with the other party. This is appropriate from the attorneys’ point of view, but it may also prevent you from reaching agreements that might have been easily accomplished. Simple issues become complex and drag on needlessly. Mediation takes the opposite approach; even though attorneys may be involved, open and thorough communication between the parties is usually encouraged. When circumstances permit, it can be healthier and more expedient for you to speak up in your own behalf. It’s your life, after all! And some issues are best resolved through frank discussion.
5. It’s private. The mediation process and the resulting agreements are confidential and private. By contrast, court proceedings and transcripts are open to the public. This may not be a big issue for most people, but if you are a high-profile person or simply value your privacy, it’s something to keep in mind.
6. It’s consensual. Most important, the mediation process keeps the decision-making in your hands. Nothing is forced on you. at gives you the power you need to shape your future.
You can handle things in your own way, at your own pace. This can be especially valuable as you consider what to do with the house. Take your time; get some expert opinions on the value of the property; look at the numbers. Then you can make your decisions in a calm manner, with good counsel and full agreement all around.
Note: If you choose to have your case mediated, you should still work with an attorney to give you legal advice. A mediator is a neutral party, and while that person may be an attorney, he or she cannot give legal advice to either spouse. It is best to hire an attorney who is a proponent of mediation to consult with during your mediation process. Your attorney can even attend the mediation sessions with you.