Imagine that the road to divorce is like getting from one side of New York City (married) to the other side of New York City (divorced). You’re not sure how to get there, so you need some help from someone who does.
Most people just go hire an attorney who files papers in court and proceeds with litigation to decide every issue which must be resolved in order to “resolve” the financial and parenting issues of the parties. This is effective, but it might be a bit like hiring a Sherman Tank and a contingent of marines to guide your way.
You would get from one side of the city (married) to the other (divorced). Along the way, it would be very expensive, it might require a lot of armor that you don’t really need, and there might be some collateral damage. Indeed, the marines or the driver of the tank might say and do some things, or take some actions, that you didn’t really want them to take. But you would live with it, pay the price, and you would end up divorced.
You’ve heard the stories about litigated divorce. It feels great, climbing into the nice, safe space of the tank. It’s very reassuring for someone to tell you that you can just hunker down for the ride and they’ll take care of you. What they don’t tell you up front is the full cost of the ride, and the collateral damage to buildings and streets and other bystanders that goes along with it. Not many people are thrilled with their litigated divorce process. (Ask a few of your friends to tell you how it was for them.)
Well, now there’s an alternative. Maybe you could just take a taxi.
(image courtesy of wikimedia commons)
A professional divorce mediator is like a New York City taxi cab driver for divorce. A taxi driver knows the back roads, the obstacles, how to avoid traffic jams. You will still get from one side of the city (married) to the other (divorced), but with a lot less cost, less collateral damage, and with matters more in your own control. If the two of you get along well enough, you might even be able to share a taxi.
The taxi is not the right choice for everyone. No doubt about it, if the “other side” is adversarial – if your soon-to-be ex wants to go to battle with you and fight against you – then you will need that tank (the protection and guidance of a formalized litigation process). It feels (and is) a bit riskier to climb into a taxi with your soon to be ex. If one of you is not committed to principles of fairness, the mediation process can be abused or mis-used. (A good mediator should stop a mediation if it becomes apparent that either of the parties isn’t committed to principles of fairness.) And sometimes you will also need the marines as well (forensic accountants, guardians ad litem, court reporters, paralegals, private detectives, etc.).
But what if you can trust that your soon-to-be-ex is concerned for fairness? What if the “other side” is not interested in fighting against you but (rather) also seeks a win-win, workable solution? What if both of you want to get to the same place (such as a case where you can both co-exist in peace and parent your children, from separate households)?
If you encounter a roadblock, perhaps the two of you could go together to hire someone to address that roadblock (a neutral forensic accountant, a neutral child psychologist, a neutral appraiser, etc.). With a mediator acting as your guide, the “taxi ride” to divorce is streamlined and cost effective. How will you know if you’re getting a fair deal? Well, if you have any doubts at all, you hire appropriate professionals to help you figure that out.
Divorce mediation is not for everyone, however. It requires that both parties (1) be committed to principles of fairness, (2) voluntarily produce full financial disclosure, (3) agree to on fair processes that will be used to help make decisions. Couples who decide upon a mediated divorce commonly agree to utilize outside experts such as attorneys, accountants, counselors, if that expertise is needed. What distinguishes a mediated divorce from a litigated divorce (which may also utilize a mediator, but only in a settlement conference) is that you make these types of key decisions yourselves. Not a judge, not your lawyer, not your mediator. The mediator’s goal is to empower you, as a divorcing couple, to make the best decisions for your family, yourselves. Just because you may have decided to divorce, doesn’t mean you have to become enemies.
In return, the non-adversarial process can save tens of thousands of dollars, produce a fair divorce agreement, and enable parties to maintain dignity, control, and privacy in their personal family decisions.
The initial meeting at Just Mediation is a screening process as well as an information session. One hour of time is charged, but people typically spend two hours discussing their needs, various options (including litigation) along with pro’s and con’s in each individual case. If both spouses are committed to fairness to each other, and if you can communicate well enough to meet at the same time with a mediator, chances are excellent that your divorce, no matter how complex in terms of disagreement or size of assets, can be mediated.
To schedule an appointment for an initial consultation, call 803-414-0185. If you want to think about it some more, feel free to use resources on this site to learn more. The goal is of this site is not to convince you to use a particular process, but to help you learn what your options are and to help you find the right process for your family. Some of the most popular blog articles on this site are Parenting Through Divorce, Divorce Mediation Checklist, The Price of a Divorce, What Are My Divorce Options in South Carolina , and Nine Reasons to Mediate Your Conflict.