As I explained as a contributor to a July 2015 HuffPost Divorce article, mediation is a non-adversarial process where couples meet together for several sessions with a neutral mediator to work out the terms of their divorce.
Not Us!! Couples can have a gut reaction that they’re not good candidates to sit in a room and hammer out divorce terms with each other.
Try our Divorce Mediation Quiz to see if your gut might be wrong:
Couples Should NOT Mediate when:
- They want to give attorneys tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to litigate
- They want to reach a Separation Agreement in years, not months
- They won’t speak to each other
- They only scream at each other
- They can’t agree on anything – so how in the world can they agree on terms?
- One (or both parties) want to get their day in court and nail their soon-to-be ex
- One party might be a lawyer or a financial person and understands divorce finances better
- One party is afraid of the other, either psychologically or physically
- One party is hiding assets; can you say Cayman Island Account?
The Right Answers;
Okay, we admit it, #1 & #2 are no brainers;
- Litigation costs about 10 times more than mediation because you have to hire two attorneys and pay them to go to court
- It typically takes years, not months, to hammer out a separation agreement with two attorneys arguing over terms. Whereas in mediation, it never takes more than months to reach an agreement.
#3-#6: Couples say to us all the time we can’t talk to each other – when we sit down to discuss splitting our assets, it ends in a screaming match. Our response is always the same: If you could discuss terms rationally, without your emotions getting in the way, you wouldn’t need us!!
As mediators, we are trained to help you look past your emotional reactions and come up with terms you both feel are fair.
Want to nail your spouse in court? One party often feels it’s the other’s fault that the marriage failed. But the judge isn’t going to care if your wife had an affair, if your husband was at the office to all hours. After all the money and years spent dragging your case through the courts, a judge will give you an agreement that is basically evenhanded. It will look like something you could have achieved in mediation in a matter of months!
#7: It’s a legitimate concern if one spouse is a financial whiz and comes in with a financial proposal that the other spouse can’t make heads or tails of (the spouse with the BA in English!). We always suggest leveling the playing field, and we often bring in a neutral financial expert to sit in during the mediation and discuss all financial options with the couples.
#8 & #9: No, you should NOT mediate. If you are afraid of your spouse for any reason, you cannot speak honestly about what you want, and you may feel pressured to accept terms you don’t want. And all divorces, whether litigated or mediated, require full financial disclosure. If you suspect your spouse of hiding assets, you’ll need the subpoena power of the courts, and judges’ orders to find those missing assets.
How did you do with our quiz? Surprised by the answers. If you’re still skeptical that you and your spouse can agree to terms when you can’t stand the sight of each other, all you have to do is try one session!! Mediation is great because there is no commitment to any number of sessions. So if it doesn’t work, you haven’t lost anything. But if it does work, you’ve gained a lot.