Why choose mediation?
I believe we have all had a similar experience, either with a friend or acquaintance or perhaps ourselves. If you were to ask a recently divorced individual the following questions, the answers are likely universal and firm.
- Did you feel honored and respected throughout the legal process?
- Do you believe the legal process helped you establish a “working relationship” with your ex for the years ahead?
- Did you feel you were a participant in your divorce process or did you feel more like an observer hoping for a favorable outcome?
- Do you feel your legal representation was a “good value” and good return on your investment of time, trust and money?
Usually, with few exceptions the answers to those four questions are No, No, Observer and No.
Our current legal system in the United States is predicated on a Win-Lose scenario. If one party “wins” or benefits than the other party must “lose” or give up something. The legal system has very specific criteria and systems when couples determine they want to terminate their marriage. When you hire an attorney to represent you in a divorce case you are hiring that attorney to represent and protect your interests, period. Attorneys do exactly what you have agreed to pay them to do; protect your financial and child custody/parenting interests utilizing the law and strategies to your advantage. Attorneys are often blamed and cited as out of control, running up their billings, creating additional tension and frankly not always seeing the larger view. I will defend attorneys on this point as they are doing exactly what clients ask them to do, and clients begrudgingly pay their attorneys very well to do it!
So, why would you choose mediation? Mediation focuses on the best possible outcome for everyone involved and asks how we can determine a settlement that is fair as it can be to everyone involved, especially when children are involved.
Mediation is very different from the traditional legal process. Mediation is not focused on who “wins and who “loses”. The formal definition of mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) that aims to assist disputants in reaching an agreement. Mediation, in real life, is your chance to actively participate and fashion an outcome you truly agree with and support instead of just accepting another party’s decision for you.
Mediation provides a setting to both accept and acknowledge the past and also to start fresh in creating a new and more positive future. The parties in mediation craft that outcome and plan through commonality and cooperation. Clients work together with the neutral mediator to come to a fair and workable agreement. Each party represents their own interests while the mediator represents the process and the final agreement. The mediator listens for agreement and commonalities and builds on each success. The mediator is always working toward a fair settlement both parties agree to.
Remember the four questions regarding your friend’s traditional legal system divorce? In a mediated settlements the answers could be Yes, Yes, participant and yes.
-Did you feel honored and respected throughout the legal process?
Mediation utilizes discussion, listening, understanding and cooperation to negotiate a mutually acceptable decision or agreement. Sometimes the mediator is a referee, reminding the parties that fighting and old conversations will not help create a settlement. Honestly, many clients choose to work with a therapist after their personal issues have been teased apart and unwoven from the divorce agreement.
-Do you believe the legal process heaped you establish a “working relationship” with your ex for the years ahead?
Mediation provides a forum in which people in separation and divorce matters work proactively to create a workable and sustainable agreement. In almost all divorces the individuals still interact in the future. Mediation gives them the ability to sit together at graduation or attend the ex’s father funeral because they have not created additional issues, resentments and anger in the divorce wrangling of traditional legal system divorces.
-Did you feel you were a participant in your divorce process or did you feel more like an observer hoping for a favorable outcome?
Mediation is a voluntary process. Parties select mediation because simply stated their marriage is over and must be resolved and settled. They must divide their property, determine custody and parenting issue- if they have children- and plan a path to navigate their future interactions.
Every mediation case is different. Some couples use a mediator exclusively and file their own court papers, some use a mediator to create the settlement and then hire an attorney to file; some have been consulting with their attorney through out the process. There is no right or wrong way to mediate. You are in control of the process.
-Do you feel your legal representation was a “good value” and good return on your investment of time, trust and money?
Mediation is usually less costly and also usually a faster process than traditional legal representation and litigation. Mediation can work simultaneously with the legal system if parties already have attorney representation. Often clients will decide their own settlements in mediation and after the mediation process, and then they will have attorneys review the settlement. Those couples literally do the “homework” first, write the paper and only then do their turn in their “homework” for review.
Mediation clients might add “I really felt honored and respected during my divorce. The process made me feel as though my healing and journey to my new and different life had begun. I believe I had an active role in determining my life’s path. I was able to conserve my assets by limiting my legal fees and I can use my savings as I chart my new path.”