Divorce is an attention-grabbing headline in any newsroom. From entertainment to politics, people tune in to hear the latest on who is getting divorced and why. Perhaps this is because divorce hits close to home for so many Americans, whether through a personal experience of divorce or as a witness among family and friends.
Most people think of divorce and conjure images of courtrooms, fights, custody battles and more. While litigation is still a primary mechanism for divorcing, mediation is a well-regarded alternative.
The Mediation Process
During the mediation process, the parties make decisions together on all of the marital issues, including alimony, housing, retirement, custody, etc. Many people find that the stress of courtroom divorce proceedings causes negative feelings to surface that can have an adverse impact on relationships for years to come. In the case of people with children and close family ties, the ability to make decisions together regarding marital issues allows for a more civil separation and termination of the marriage.
Here are the top five reasons divorce mediation works for many people:
- The parties are cooperative and open-minded. To consider mediation in the first place means that you are open to an alternative method of resolving marital disputes. This willingness to be open-minded and cooperative is a step in the right direction toward mediation success. During mediation sessions, you are seeking the best resolutions, generating new ideas and reaching effective results.
- The parties retain control over the outcome. In the case of divorce litigation, a judge will make final decisions about the most important issues in your life after hearing your case for a brief time. Once decisions are made, you will be forced to live with them, in most instances. In mediation, the parties make the decisions. During divorce mediation, you discuss areas of concern and decide together how to handle child issues, as well as how to divide and manage marital assets, liabilities and other matters. This agreement is then recognized by the court.
- The parties save money and anguish by avoiding the courtroom. Preparing for a court appearance is stressful for most people – even traffic court can be daunting for some. During divorce litigation, each issue not decided by the parties will be decided by the court. The number of court appearances will vary depending on the nature and complexity of issues. Attorney’s fees, costs, discovery costs, experts’ fees and more will continue to add up. Through divorce mediation these costs can be dramatically reduced, saving time, money and the stress of courtroom appearances.
- The parties come to resolutions on each person’s own timetable. Mediation proceeds according to your schedule, not the court’s. This is a great advantage as some issues may be more time sensitive than others, so you can put those first. You work with the mediator to develop a schedule of priorities and issues for discussion. Having the ability to determine the timetable allows for greater flexibility in making arrangements around work and childcare schedules, which helps the parties keep some control during the divorce process.
- The parties retain a more amenable relationship. Through mediation, you resolve differences in a calm and professional setting. In high-stress situations, like courtroom appearances, emotions tend to rule the day. Sometimes things are said that cannot be unsaid, and damage to the relationship becomes irreversible.
Remember that, at the end of this process, your ex-spouse still will be parent to your children, grandparent to your grandchildren or maybe even friends with your friends. A successful mediation allows you to end the marriage but retain a more amenable relationship for the future.
The list above highlights the advantages of mediation in optimal situations; however, it is important to note that while mediation can be more advantageous in many ways, divorce is still a tough process to undergo. If you are open-minded, reasonable, interested in saving money and desirous of determining your own fate, then mediation can be a more advantageous alternative to resolve marital disputes.
Linda Sorg Ostovitz, Esq., is a founding partner of Silverstein & Ostovitz LLC. In addition to providing legal representation, she also provides mediation services to help parties come to a fair and legally-sound conclusion outside of the courthouse. She can be reached at 410-461-4200 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.