In mediation, I do not act as an attorney for either spouse, but rather as a neutral third party to assist both spouses. I have been mediating divorce and family cases for over 20 years, and I’ve trained and mentored other mediators to do this work. I am able to brainstorm with clients about concrete solutions for them to consider when they are negotiating their agreement. I educate clients on the necessary legal information so that they can make informed decisions based upon that information. I have an excellent reputation with all of the judges in this county, and my firm has a long track record of getting our divorce agreements approved by judges. We use and incorporate support guidelines and financial software to develop realistic and comprehensive budgets for our clients, as well as to deal with the tax consequences for the couple. In addition, our clients don’t have to liquidate their assets in order to pay for mediation as they would if they had to pay for two attorneys and go through litigation.
Why do People Generally Avoid Utilizing Mediation in A Family Law Case?
Some people avoid mediation based on the belief that they can negotiate on their own behalf with their soon-to-be former spouse. However, there might be a power imbalance between spouses, whereby one has been a stay-at-home parent while the other has dealt with all of the finances. If this is the case, then one spouse may be concerned about how they are going to be able to negotiate a settlement. A very skilled mediator will recognize those issues and help both clients to address the power imbalance.
What is The Psychological or Emotional Impact Associated With a Divorce?
Mental health experts will tell you that going through a divorce is the second most traumatic experience that someone can go through (second only to death). Clients will often go through a grieving process when they’ve ended a relationship or when they are going through a divorce. What I always say to clients is that even though divorce is painful and emotional, the divorce process itself doesn’t have to be. What makes it painful, in my opinion, is when clients go through a contested process by hiring two separate attorneys in order to sue one another and drain one another’s assets.
Do Most Couples Start Out in Mediation And End up in Litigation or Vice Versa?
When I started working in this field twenty years ago, most people really hadn’t heard of mediation. As a result, they would hire two separate attorneys and go through the litigation process. Nowadays, most people know about mediation but often have the misperception that in order to go through it, a couple has to be amicable and know what they want. This is one of the biggest misperceptions. Clients are not typically amicable when they go through a divorce; they are hurt, angry and grieving. The only thing that a client has to do is agree to use mediation as a process to get through a divorce. Most clients come to me from referral sources, such as lawyers, former clients, marriage therapists or individual counselors. Many of them have not gone through the litigation process. Some clients start out with lawyers and then decide after a couple of court appearances and spending thousands of dollars in legal fees that the litigation process isn’t for them.
People can begin the mediation process at any point, even if they have already hired two separate lawyers and considered litigation. Prior to signing the final agreement, I always recommend that clients have their own separate lawyer just to review the agreement. This is because it is a legal contract that they will be entering into, and even though I am an attorney, I’m not acting as an attorney for either of them in the mediation process. I’m a mediator; my role is to help them develop an agreement that’s fair to both of them and that the judge will ultimately approve.
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