There is never a convenient time to get a divorce. Couples with young kids often choose to live in misery and postpone the divorce process to avoid upsetting their kids’ lives. Yet, their kids’ lives are probably made more difficult by their parents arguing. But, if you knew there were a way to move on with your life with the least amount of disruption to your children’s routine as possible, you would probably want to explore it. Mediation offers just such a choice, providing a way to reduce family stress and shorten the process.
How is the mediation process different than divorce litigation?
In simple terms, mediation occurs when the couple works out the terms of the agreement together with a mediator. Divorce litigation involves two separate attorneys, each arguing for the best possible terms for their clients.
But the main difference between these two processes is that mediation is made possible by a couple agreeing to work together. Divorces are often hot, contested situations with couples spitefully fighting for the most money, full child support and cutting the other person out of the kids’ lives as much as possible. Couples in these circumstances are not good mediation candidates. Mediation only works when the couple agrees to work together. They may not start off agreeing on everything, but they need to be on speaking terms for the mediator to be able to work with them.
Other differences include:
- Mediation is a quicker process. Divorce can take years, the process lengthened by heated emotions and long waits for court dates. Following an initial consultation, a mediator will suggest a schedule to work through all the different areas of the divorce agreement. If everything goes smoothly, an agreement can be reached in a few short weeks.
- Costs are much lower. Rather than provide a retainer upfront, mediation is paid by the session. A divorce by mediation can be as low as a few hundred dollars if quickly concluded. In most cases, the entire mediation process will run about $1,500. Divorces can run upwards of $40,000 depending on how long they take and the attorney’s hourly rate. Those kinds of fees eat into what the couple have left after splitting their assets, making it more difficult to afford living separately.
- Much less stress. Mediation encourages the couple to talk through their differences. When opposing lawyers are involved, they add fuel to the fire, creating hostility, fighting, vindictiveness, financial problems, upset children and worse. People tend to become the worst versions of themselves during a divorce because they are always in fighting mode. Rarely does that benefit the children, especially when the couple play games with visitation, preventing the other parent from seeing the kids or bad mouthing the other parent to the kids. Kids end up blaming themselves thinking they are the reason their parent are fighting. None of this horror needs to happen and can be avoided through a civil mediation process.
Mediation is not appropriate for everyone. If you are on speaking terms with your partner and feel like you can reasonably iron out an agreement, then a consultation with a mediator should indicate whether the mediation process will work for you.