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Reasons to Consider Mediation in Your Divorce Case
Mediation has been gaining traction in the realm of family law for a couple of decades now, so it is not new but it is still an underutilized form of dispute resolution. While my favorite way to resolve a divorce case is with a simple written agreement in the early stages of the case, in those cases where negotiations are stuck mediation is almost always the best alternative. Here are some of the most significant reasons you should consider mediating your divorce case.
Mediation Lets You Control the Outcome
Every divorce lawyer has their share of clients who claim to want their "day in court." The reality of trial for them is usually less than satisfactory. Even if you get everything you ask for (this almost never happens) trials are time-consuming, emotionally exhausting, and extraordinarily expensive. While I enjoy trying cases (any good trial lawyer does) the fact is that I would strongly discourage anyone from trying their divorce case unless absolutely necessary.
One of the big issues with a trial is that after hearing all the evidence the judge unilaterally makes a ruling and then you are stuck with it. Whether you like it or not that is the final ruling. In mediation you get to decide exactly what you can live with as a final result. You may not get everything you want but at least it will be your decision and not something that was imposed upon you.
Mediation Costs a Whole Lot Less than Trial
While mediation is not cheap, it is certainly a lot less expensive than trying your case. Your mediation will likely last either a half-day or full-day and you will pay your share of the mediator's fee as well as your attorney's fees. So there is certainly some significant cost involved in a mediation. However, when you compare this to the extensive work necessary to prepare for and conduct a trial the cost of the mediation begins to look pretty good. The expense of mediation is likely to be a small fraction of the total cost of a trial.
Mediation Keeps Your Private Life Private
Mediations are private, confidential sessions that no one outside of the parties, attorneys and mediator are privy to. Trials are quite different. A trial is held in a courtroom that is a public forum. That means anyone can sit in and watch your divorce trial. While this may not be an issue unless you're a public figure, nonetheless most people are a bit embarrassed when they realize that the details of their private life are going to be discussed in such an open forum.
Another significant issue concerns your private information being entered in court exhibits. For example, in Texas it is a common court requirement that each party file an Inventory if the case is tried. The Inventory will contain details about the party's assets and liabilities including account balances and overall net worth. For good reason, many people are very uncomfortable with putting these kinds of details in the public record. With mediation you can reach an agreement and then file a Final Decree which simply divides the assets without providing any details as to the values.
As described above mediation allows you to retain a great deal of control over your case, it can save you a tremendous amount of money when compared to the cost of a trial, and it avoids the need to air your private life and public. Consider all of these benefits before you insist to your lawyer that you want "your day in court."
Before the divorce is final, the court may issue temporary orders to deal with immediate problems, such as conservatorship, possession, child support, and spousal support/alimony. Temporary orders can say who will live in the home, who will be able to write checks on the bank accounts, and who will have control of the children up until the divorce is final and permanent orders are put in place. In most cases, depending on the court, the spouses will be ordered to mediation prior to any hearing on temporary orders. Mandatory mediation helps lessen the case load at the court and helps the parties resolve issues without a court ruling.
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