When spouses agree to divorce, it is a stressful and emotional time for the whole family. Litigating a divorce is time-consuming, expensive, and exhausting: as the cost and amount of time invested rises, typically so do the tensions and animosity between the spouses. Especially in cases involving minor children, a long contentious court battle can often cause irreparable damage to the relationships between the family members.
Increasingly, more families are looking for better ways to separate without the stress, animosity, cost, and time-commitment of litigation. One great option that has been steadily gaining in popularity over the years is the process of mediation. Divorce mediation is a type of alternative dispute resolution where a neutral third-party divorce mediator helps guide the parties towards a legally binding and enforceable divorce agreement that is fair and workable for both parties, rather than placing such important issues in the hands of an anonymous judge whose order may not best represent the interest of both parties. Divorce mediation is typically much faster than a traditional court proceeding: by avoiding potentially dozens of hours in the courtroom, couples can greatly reduce the cost of divorce as well as the stress of litigation, without sacrificing the enforceability of a legally binding agreement.
Despite its many benefits, some clients are hesitant to engage in divorce mediation because they do not understand exactly what divorce mediation is, what it accomplishes, and how it can spare the parties the emotional strain of an adversarial proceeding. This article debunks 5 common myths about divorce mediation to help you better understand how a New York divorce mediator can help you and your spouse reach a separation agreement that is best for your family.
Myth 1: You can get a divorce for $399
One of the biggest misconceptions about divorce mediation is that it is unnecessary because couples can get a divorce relatively easy with little cost. This myth is perpetuated by dubious advertisements that promise a fast divorce for a small fee: the idea that a divorce can be obtained simply for a small fee, such as $399, is not only false, it misrepresents the overall expense involved in an adversarial divorce proceeding and misleads consumers about the amount and quality of legal guidance they will receive in exchange for their hard-earned money.
Typically, when you see advertisements claiming that you can get a “quick and simple” divorce for $399 (or similar), there are a few important caveats that the ads fail to mention. First, you can’t obtain a divorce without the consent and signature of your spouse. Second, the advertised fee only pays for a non-lawyer to complete the paperwork for you: not only does the fee not include the services of a licensed attorney, the filing fees in many cases are the same or more than the advertised price of the divorce. Third, after payment of the fee, you are left to complete the filing of your paperwork, service of process, and court appearances on your own.
While a simple flat-rate for a divorce sounds like an affordable and convenient solution, unfortunately the services and help you receive after paying the fee is virtually non-existent. With an experienced and qualified New York divorce mediator, however, you can greatly reduce the cost of an average divorce proceeding without sacrificing the quality of services or being left to complete the majority of the work yourself.
Myth 2: Mediation doesn’t result in a legally binding agreement
Some clients may be hesitant to attempt mediation because they mistakenly think that only a court order issued by a judge is legally binding.
While mediation is not binding until the parties agree upon and sign a separation agreement, once the agreement is signed, the terms contained within are just as binding as if the case had been decided by a judge in court. Think of mediation as a series of discussions; each side may present terms and, with the help of a mediator, a compromise is agreed upon and entered into as an agreement by both parties. Just like a court order, if one party fails to fulfill the terms of the separation agreement there are legal consequences and actions you can take to enforce the agreement.
Myth 3: Your mediator will decide what is fair if you can’t agree
The role of the mediator is to help the parties communicate, maintain focus of the dialogue on productive and solution-oriented results, and guide the spouses towards an agreement that works best for the family as a whole. Your mediator is not a judge and, therefore, does not have the legal authority to decide the terms of your divorce for you.
One of the great benefits of mediation is that it allows the parties to retain control of the outcome, rather than having their fate decided for them by a judge. The parties are able to present their own terms and work together to reach an agreement that both can agree on.
Myth 4: Mediation is only for easy cases
Another common misconception about mediation is that it is only for simple cases. Mediation is a great tool for all types of divorce cases, regardless of the complexity of the issues involved. In fact, parties with complex cases benefit the most from mediation; by choosing to mediate the issues in dispute, the spouses avoid a lengthy and costly court case that can increase stress and contentions between the parties. Complex issues are also best solved by mediation because of the informality and flexibility of the process. Rather than having a judge decide terms that may disadvantage one spouse or even both spouses, in mediation the agreement is as good as the parties’ participation in the process and often prevents later disputes that can arise from court orders that are too one-sided.
Myth 5: You have to be amicable and agree on everything to mediate
Finally, mediation is not reserved for couples who agree on all the issues relating to their divorce. If the couple were able to agree on all the terms of their divorce, mediation wouldn’t be necessary!
Mediation is designed to help facilitate communication between the parties so that it is easier for them to come to an agreement. A good mediator will be able to listen to both spouse’s needs and concerns while helping to craft a separation agreement that represents the interests of both parties.
Divorce Mediation Professionals: helping New York families mediate for 30 years
At Divorce Mediation Professionals, we understand that divorce is a difficult and stressful time. Our team of experienced mediators can help your family avoid the expense and lengthy process of traditional court proceedings through mediation. To hear more about our services or to schedule your consultation at our Nassau county, Suffolk county, Westchester county, or Manhattan office, contact us today at firstname.lastname@example.org.