Recently, I was asked to list the top five reasons why mediation was a good choice to navigate the end of a relationship. Here’s my response:
Reason Number 5: You can choose to have an attorney present at the mediation, and/or to review your agreement before you sign.
It’s a fairly common assumption that when using a mediator, you cannot use an attorney. Not true. While many of my clients do not feel the need to incur the added expense of attorney involvement, I always encourage couples to seek independent legal advice, and I can and will refer my clients to several knowledgeable attorneys.
Reason Number 4: You can choose to have a financial expert present at the mediation, and/or to review your agreement before you sign.
Sometimes complex financial situations occur when ending a relationship. For example, determining what portion of a retirement account is separate property and what portion is community property may require an expert to evaluate. I have several colleagues who are financial experts, and would happily assist if necessary.
Reason Number 3: You can create a parenting plan that focuses on the needs of your children.
The most challenging part of ending a relationship is figuring out what’s best for the kids. In the mediation process, the parties make their own choices to create a reasonable and flexible parenting plan. After all, who knows what’s best for your family? Certainly not a Judge who has never met you or your kids!
Reason Number 2: You and your partner are in charge of making your own decisions.
A neutral Mediator will assist you to safely and respectfully communicate with each other, and guide you towards a smooth transition. Obviously these conversations aren’t easy. There are many emotions at play, many unresolved issues, and many patterns in a relationship that can go back years or even decades. Mediators are trained to help untangle the complex emotions with compassion and empathy. Often times after a party has expressed a difficult emotion, he or she feels more capable of making important decisions. When the parties themselves are actually responsible for their own outcome, there is way less risk and way more reward than becoming involved in a lengthy legal proceeding.
Reason Number 1: You will emerge from the process having spent considerably less money, less time, and having considerably more respect for yourself and for each other.
The financial impact a litigated divorce can create needs no explanation. However, the emotional impact is of equal importance. Couples who go through the mediation process find themselves able to move forward in a shorter period of time, and with a greater amount of dignity and respect. This is especially important if there are children involved, because there will always be occasions for the family to be together in the future. If the divorce process can be completed with respect instead of animosity, those future family gatherings will be less stressful for yourself and for your children.
Then again, some people would rather roll the dice . . .
Please share your thoughts.