If you’re like most people beginning to talk about divorce, you’re determined that you and your spouse are not going to end up at war. You’re not going to spend thousands of dollars on legal fees. You’re not going to let the dispute between the two of you drag on for months of painful wrangling back and forth.
I’ve got some good news for you that you may not realize: the odds are in your favor. Sure, we’ve all heard the horror stories, and there are plenty of examples of divorcing couples who do lose control of theirconflict. But the fact is that most couples who go through divorce manage to deal with the pain and keep it from becoming ugly and expensive.
They don’t end up with a succession of six or eight court hearings, they don’t spend thousands of dollars on lawyers, and they don’t get written up in Newsweek magazine. They just quietly get about the painful business of ending their marriage, and generally, when they’re finished, they’re even able to find a way to be parents together.
So how do you do it? How do you make sure that you’re one of the fortunate ones who can get through this without killing each other? You start by thoroughly exploring the divorce process itself. This web site is a great way to do it, and there are some other sites that are also helpful.
For many couples, the best solution may be an uncontested divorce. But let’s assume that you and your spouse don’t agree yet on how to divide up your property, or how much of what kind of support each of you will pay. Consider mediation.
The idea of divorce mediation is that you and your spouse would sit down in the same room with each other and with a neutral mediator and work through all the issues you need to resolve so the two of you can get through your divorce. Mediation is flexible and confidential. It gives you and your spouse a way to settle the conflict between you, which is natural and inevitable, in a way that helps you to work together as parents after your divorce.
Your mediator will remain neutral between you and your spouse. That means the mediator cannot give advice to either party and cannot act as a lawyer for either party.
What the mediator can do, though, is to point out in open session to both spouses things that each of them should be aware of about what they’re trying to accomplish. That open and free exchange of information frees up both spouses to negotiate with each other in confidence.
Because all three of you are working with the same base of information, it usually takes far less time to negotiate a resolution that makes sense to both spouses. Depending on the style of mediation your mediator uses, you’re usually welcome to bring your lawyer to mediation if you want to, or you can use your lawyer as a coach or advisor between sessions.
Mediation is voluntary. It continues only for so long as all three of you want it to. Either spouse can withdraw from mediation at any time, for a good reason, a bad reason, or no reason at all.
Groups I talk to often ask, “does mediation really work“? In a word, yes. We know from years of research that when you compare couples who have mediated their divorce with couples who go through an adversarial divorce, mediating couples are more likely to be satisfied with the process and the results, likely to take less time and spend less money, and are less likely to go back to court later to fight about something.
The main advantage of mediation is that it keeps you and your spouse in control of your own divorce, and I believe that can make all the difference in your recovering from your divorce and moving on with your life. Mediation allows the two of you to get through your divorce with less conflict than you would experience in an adversarial divorce, and often saving time and money.
Because mediation is all about working with shared knowledge, mediation also often allows you and your spouse to work together to lower your tax bill. And that can often translate to more money for you.