Your best friend’s husband cheated on her. You tell her, “Get yourself a lawyer. Right away. And be sure to find a real bulldog.”

I’m pretty sure someone you know has been involved in this type of conversation once or twice. Many people think hiring a lawyer equates to getting revenge. Your best friend is soon going to realize that there will be a hefty price tag attached, and it’s not going to be enough to make her feel all better.

If you’re thinking about getting divorced, I’d like to pose three questions:

1. Do you want to end your relationship quickly?
2. Do you want to end your relationship without spending a fortune?
3. Do you value peace and compromise?

Instead of going the attorney route, which is like taking the local railroad that stops at every station, think of mediation as the express train.  It’s a faster, smoother way of arriving at your destination.

The process of mediation isn’t complicated.  Since there are usually no attorneys involved, no court appearances are required.  The two of you will meet with a neutral, unbiased, non-judgmental third party (the Mediator) who will help you have a conversation with each other aimed toward mutual respect and ultimate resolution.  As each concern is discussed, the Mediator will ask questions to make sure each of you understands the other’s position, and then she will help you brainstorm possible solutions to each item about which you start off in disagreement.  Sometimes the issues are fairly uncomplicated:  who keeps the Toyota and who gets the Honda.  And sometimes the issues are complex:  visitation schedules for the kids, or spousal support.  The more complex the matter, the more helpful a Mediator will be in arriving at a mutually beneficial solution.

A lesser known benefit of mediation is that it is flexible.  For example, a parenting plan can be set in motion while your kids are in elementary school, with a built-in provision to revisit some of the terms when each child enters middle school or high school.  As children grow, their needs change, and your parenting plan can be structured to grow up along with the kids.  No lawyers will be needed, and no court appearance will be necessary under most circumstances.

Obviously, not all situations lend themselves to mediation.  If there are safety issues involved, such as abuse or addiction, you’re likely to need some temporary Court orders to help keep you and your children safe.  But if you’re like many couples who have simply grown apart, or who have insurmountable differences in philosophies or principles, mediation is always going to be a beneficial alternative.

It’s important to note that a Mediator is not able to give you legal advice.  Nor is she a therapist, a CPA, or a judge.  You’ll have to do the heavy lifting on your own, but a Mediator will definitely help you lighten the load, both emotionally and financially.  I hope you’ll remember that mediation is an alternative to the angry mess of divorce litigation.  And please don’t forget to mention it to your best friend!