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Under the right circumstances, mediation can be an effective tool for resolving individual differences in connection with a divorce or other family law dispute. In many cases, it can provide significant cost savings as well. However, parties should be cautious about simply jumping into mediation. For all of its virtues, mediation does have some drawbacks, and in some cases it can be more expensive – and even counterproductive.
When couples make the decision to legally separate or dissolve their marriage, they have more options than to just muddle through it on their own or retain attorneys and go to battle. Discovering what those alternatives are is part of the education process we offer couples as they embark on their journey to transition into the next phase of their lives.
How can pulling apart be described as “cooperative?” The answer lies in an understanding of both the history of divorce and its emotional components. While the legal system deals with the physical and financial separation, it does not provide skill sets for the psychological and emotional separation.
I sometimes wonder whether mediation made my journey lighter, or our approach to divorce was more suited to mediation - probably both. These are the valuable lessons I learned.
When a marriage ends, it is usually accompanied by intense emotions that too often result in terrible choices being made that end up hurting the couple and the children. You don’t have to be Gandhi, Buddha or any other kind of evolved spirit to have a “Peaceful Divorce,” but you do need to have the intention to do so.
No one goes into marriage thinking they will divorce one day, but if half of all marriages end in divorce, as the statistics tell us, the chance of a couple staying together are about 50/50, which may be a good bet or bad bet - depending on whether or not you like to gamble.
When your children come to you with their tales of marital woe beware. There will be a great temptation to finance your child’s divorce, thinking that you are helping them get custody or more marital property but in most cases, hiring separate divorce lawyers is the death knell for any co-parenting relationship.
The divorce process is so complicated most people just don’t want to deal with it on their own. Traditionally the process of getting a divorce has involved hiring lawyers, going to court and letting a judge or the lawyers decide and/or negotiate the outcome.
If you have been divorced or have heard about a nasty one, then I am preaching to the choir when I outline the emotional and financial devastation that can be wrought on emotionally vulnerable couples who get involved in the adversarial system that IS divorce court.
The New York Times recently published an article describing the dramatic shift in aging Americans’ perspective of the Golden Years. The traditional view pictured two souls caring for each other into their late years. But, the past 20 years has seen more than a 50% surge in the divorce rate among baby boomers.
Divorce mediation has, as its ultimate goal, the achievement of a legal resolution. At the Center we have team mediators of attorneys and therapists. So, what does a mediator with training as a psychotherapist bring to a mediation that has a legal objective?
Divorce mediation is fast becoming the favorite choice for couples seeking divorce. It offers a lower cost, faster process, without leaving the decision to a third-party judge. Mediators are the facilitators that are committed to a neutral position between the parties. Mediators avoid language such as "you should" and "you must." Only the couple in mediation has power to reach an agreement.
The standard questions most advisors suggest have to do with the mediators education, training and experience. How much training in mediation have they had? How long have they been practicing? How many divorce cases have they mediated? Do they have references? Are they viewed as authorities? Do they have law degrees? What will it cost? These are all valuable inquiries, but in the end the most valuable criteria is whether they can help achieve a lasting resolution in the divorce.
Setting up ground rules to resolve issues help couples keep their eyes on the big picture rather than on mini victories. That’s one of the reasons that a mediated divorce, on average, feels and works better than a litigated divorce.
We are often asked how expensive it is to get divorced. We know our clients mean the cost of professionals to manage the divorce, not property division or support issues (which we have addressed in earlier articles). Like most professionals, divorce mediators are compensated for the time they spend in providing services.
Agreements that come from working together last longer, are less likely to be challenged later, and help to create an atmosphere of success. You don’t have to like your spouse to reach a workable divorce agreement (but it helps). You should know, however, which factors are friends of cooperation and which are its enemies.
Ask most people what it is like to go through a divorce and chances are you will hear a litany of horror stories about high legal costs, unfair results in court and lawyers who don’t care enough about their own clients to return phone calls.
Unfortunately half of all marriages end in divorce. If there is nothing else to be done to save the marriage, at least end it with as much dignity and fairness while keeping as much control as possible.
The best predictor of the well being of children involved in a divorce is the amount of conflict between parents. In mediation, conflicts are more likely to be resolved, resulting in a more peaceful post-divorce family life.
In mediation, the spouses maintain control and make all the decisions, instead of relying on a judge or court commissioner to do so. Issues are resolved much sooner, at a far lower cost, and with much less stress. The resulting Marital Settlement Agreement is the product of a careful and deliberate process of decision-making by the parties themselves.
How is a divorce like a journey through turbulent waters? Imagine that you and your spouse are about to undertake a river rafting trip, and are faced with deciding between two methods of travel.
Caught up in the battles, in and out of the courtroom, between the team of husband and his attorney verses the team of wife and her attorney, both spouses can start to behave in a way that is seen as scheming, unreasonable, selfish, or worse.
In traditional haggling position-based bargaining, the parties begin by stating their respective positions. As negotiations progress, the parties give ground only gradually, while trying to wear down the other side with hard bargaining tactics, e.g., threatening to walk out.
Divorce mediation process can only work when the spouses make their own voluntary decisions, based on adequate information.
Suppose you have decided to divorce your spouse because of some serious transgression. You talk to your friends and they advise you to retain an aggressive divorce attorney some attorneys advertise that way in the Yellow Pages and take the other spouse for all he/she is worth.
Mediation is a tested, more sensitive approach to separation and divorce. It is a non-adversarial process helping people to dissolve marriages, or domestic partnerships, once the decision to separate is made.
Few divorcing couples realize that there is a wide range of options to choose among for getting the necessary professional help in a divorce.
Conflict occurs when two or more people believe that what each wants is incompatible with what the other wants. Conflict is likely to increase in times of change.
Mediation is the sensible alternative to litigation particularly when people are divorcing. When you think about divorce, you immediately think of lawyers, courts, judges, and litigation, not to mention expense and aggravation.
Generally, debts incurred during the marriage are community obligations. This includes credit card bills, even if the credit card is in one name only. Student loans are an important exception because they are considered separate property debts. Community property possessions and community property debts are divided equally unless both spouses agree to an unequal division in writing. If spouses can't agree on the division of debts and possessions, a judge makes that decision.
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