Is it possible for two people to end their relationship in a fair and respectful manner without spending thousands of dollars on attorneys? Absolutely!
Here’s one scenario: A couple of years ago, I met with Pat and Chris. Pat had retained a lawyer for $2,500. Chris had retained a lawyer for $2,000. Both had used up their entire retainer fee and had only one issue remaining to be resolved. Rather than pay their attorneys more money, they came to me for help. The issue concerned a car, and they were literally only $1,000 apart when they began negotiating with each other in my office. In the span of an hour, it was resolved to the satisfaction of both. Their parting words to me were of regret that they hadn’t tried mediation first.
Before I go any further, let me emphatically state that I have nothing against attorneys. In fact, I collaborate with many, refer business to some, and encourage all my clients to seek an independent legal opinion about the decisions they’ve made during the mediation process. And by the way, I should mention that my brother, brother-in-law, niece, cousin, and several close friends are also attorneys.
Okay, now that I’ve issued my disclaimer about not being anti-lawyer, I can move forward. I want to explain that there are two significant differences between hiring an attorney and hiring a mediator to work out the terms of your divorce. They are:
- An attorney is an advocate. He/she is not neutral, will give you advice, and charge you a lot of money.
- A mediator is a neutral, third party who, instead of advising you, will facilitate conversations, negotiations, and brainstorm solutions that are in the best interests of BOTH of you (and your family).
I do not hesitate to suggest that some people are better suited for legal representation than mediation, depending upon specific factors such as complicated finances, prior acts of abuse or neglect, alcoholism or drug use, etc. That being said, if more divorcing people made mediation their first stop, there would be less litigation, less money spent, more focus on the family, and more intentions set as to life moving forward.
And isn’t moving forward what we all want to do?