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.

NYC Taxi from wikimedia commons

(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 DivorceWhat Are My Divorce Options in South Carolina , and Nine Reasons to Mediate Your Conflict.


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  2. Don’t we all wish it could be so easy. I wonder what the statistics are regarding easy divorces v. hard ones?

  3. I haven’t taken time to scrutinize the sources (which is why I haven’t written a blog article about it), but word on the street is that about 95% of people are happy with the results of mediated divorce (about 5% stop mediation and pursue litigation) and that mediated divorce costs about 1/10 the cost of a litigated divorce dealing with equivalent issues. No divorce is easy, but in my opinion, the all out battlefield and taking no prisoners is by far the hardest way to go. The parties lives will look like the aftermath of a Godzilla movie, and their children will pay the highest price.

  4. I can see why people would want divorce to be like getting a taxi for all the points the article said. Given that the divorce rate in America is reportedly 1 in every 2 couples, it is true that many start out as reasonable parties looking for a reasonable way to handle divorce. So when the realization of the relationship is over, they both should agree to mediation while the good feelings are there because once they head into court it has shown that the good feelings are replaced with revenge and bitterness. So given the costs that courts can cost, starting or at least giving mediation a try would be a boon to both parties.

  5. I love the analogy. It also applies to facilitation. It is not difficult for corporations to anticipate disputes before they occur and the intelligent use of facilitation by a mediator using mediation philosophies can be a huge help to achieve planned projects. One of Australia’s biggest mining companies was reported tonight (20th November 2012) by our best national television network, the government owned Australian Broadcasting Corporation. The matter related to negotiations with a group of native people, some of whom are in favour and some against, But now, allegations of bribery and inappropriate influence are public, no doubt adversely affecting the company. Perhaps facilitation may not have worked, but I have a sneaking suspicion that at least it would have mitigated the trouble and helped guide the company through to securing greater support from the local indigenous community.

  6. […] reach your own voluntary settlement, and which enables you to continue to co-parent with as little “collateral damage” to your family as possible, and if you feel both parties are committed to principles of fairness, […]

  7. […] an earlier blog post, I described the mediator in a mediated divorce case as being like  New York City taxi cab driver, […]

  8. […] does not pit parties against one another as adversaries.  Whether parties are seeking a divorce, a change in child custody, or a viable solution to meeting daily needs of an elderly family […]

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