Divorce Mediation has become a popular alternative to adversarial divorce proceedings as it saves families time, money and unnecessary emotional upheaval.
It has helped countless couples achieve a more constructive divorce. Yet, there are still many misconceptions about the process that cause individuals to believe mediation would not be right for them. This is unfortunate as most couples who begin the mediation process do successfully conclude the process, regardless of the fact that they may have initially disagreed on the issues to be decided or had a conflicted relationship. With the help of a mediator, issues like who will continue to live in the home, how much one of the parties will pay for support, how will the financial assets and debts be divided, and what is the best parenting plan, will be decided by the couple, and not be left to be made by outside strangers who do not know what is best for them or their family.
The following is a list of some of the more common myths, and the information which will hopefully alleviate these misconceptions about the mediation process.
Myth #1 – Only Simple Cases Can Be Settled By Mediation
A common myth about divorce mediation is that it is only a process that works in simple cases, with few, if any disputed issues. Nothing can be further from the truth.
If you ask couples married two years, or thirty-two years, each will tell you there is nothing simple about what they are going through. Each couple experiences difficult emotional feelings that can cause even some of the more basic decisions hard to make. When the issues are far more complex, those issues can be even more difficult to resolve. Couples working in an adversarial context, each have an individual attorney working for them. Those attorneys are often working at cross purposes, and as time goes on, the issues become bigger and bigger, the emotions become more inflamed, and it becomes more and more difficult to resolve them. However, a mediator, working with both parties can often assuage those emotions, rather than allowing them to control the process. By focusing the parties on the practical business at hand, even the most complex issues can be resolved in a mutually satisfactory way.
Myth #2 – You And Your Spouse Must Be Amicable For Mediation To Work
Many couples believe that divorce mediation is only a process for couples who get along well. They believe that unless they have an amicable relationship, mediation will not work. This is just not so. While it will probably be a much easier process if the individuals were caring and respectful, there is absolutely no requirement that couples be amicable to be candidates for mediation. As a matter of fact, couples who have a conflicted relationship, often find the adversarial process a long, costly, and emotionally draining process. That is because that process feeds on the hostility of the parties to keep it going. In contrast mediation does not focus on the negatives in the relationship, rather the mediator focuses on compromises and solutions that work for both of the parties. A mediator can guide the process in such a way as to resolve the issues even for spouses that can barely speak to each other or stand to be in the same room with each other.
Myth #3 – Divorce Mediation Is Not For High Net Worth Couples
One of the most common myths about divorce mediation is that is not for high net worth couples. Obviously, when substantial income and assets are involved in a divorce, there are more decisions to be made. However, unlike couples with more limited assets, high net worth couples are in a better position to solve the financial concerns the divorce has created, allowing both spouses and their family to go forward separately in a comfortable way.
In cases where assets are substantial and varied, your mediator can help you to come to a resolution that works for both of you, simply because there are more options for doing so. As an added bonus, couples can save tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees by using mediation which take a few months to reach a mutually beneficial conclusion, rather than two years or more to have it resolved in an adversarial system, where oftentimes neither party is satisfied.
Myth #4 – I Will Not Know What I Am Doing If I Go To A Mediator
This is an understandable concern, one that is expressed by many who come in for a consultation to explore whether mediation is for them. However, it is one that is taken seriously in mediation.
Mediation is a process in which couples are helped by a neutral party to reach their own agreement, one they are comfortable with, rather than having a judge impose an agreement on them they might think unfair. However, it is not a process where “anything goes”. A mediator is required to do everything that would be required in any other process to insure you are educated and informed.
For example, at the beginning of the process, the mediator will require a full and complete financial disclosure, and make sure both parties feel confident and comfortable that they understand their financial situation. In addition, an experienced mediator will provide written information about the law. While the mediator is attempting to help the parties reach their own agreement, should the agreement deviate substantially from what they could expect in a court of law, or if it is unrealistic to think the agreement will work, it is the obligation of the mediator to point this out to the parties. If the couple reaches an impasse, it is the role of the mediator to offer various solutions, compromises or alternatives that may solve the problem. Your mediator will be there to help and will address any question, or concern you have during your mediation.
Myth #5 – Mediation Is Not Necessary Because The Law Is Black And White
Even couples who feel their case is “black and white” find mediation helpful. While they may not need a lot of mediation, they can benefit from the mediator taking down the terms of their agreement, making sure they have not forgotten anything that should be addressed, and arranging to formalize their matter through the court system.
However, in many instances, the law is not black and white. Worse yet, sometimes the law does not even work in certain situations. When the law is not clear, couples can turn to one of the two following choices:
1. They can hire two attorneys who will try to use the nuances of the law to make their respective cases. Unfortunately, there is no way to know what a Judge will decide until they get to Court. It will take time and money to get the answer. Sometimes more money than they were fighting over.
2. They can use a mediator who will use the law as a jumping off point, to help them come up with a compromise, which works for both of them. They will be agreeing to something they know they can live with, and not risk having to live with an unknown decision imposed on them by a Judge. In addition, they avoid going through a legal process which can be long, expensive and emotionally draining. It is in the best interests of each spouse and their family to settle their matter by mediation in a reasonable time frame, enabling them to get on with the business of their lives.
Despite the many myths about divorce mediation, mediation is a process beneficial to divorcing couples. It is well worth considering whether divorce mediation may benefit you and your family.