We have all heard the horror stories of the divorce litigation that lasts for years, where each spouse is financially devastated; the children are placed in the middle; and when the matter is finally resolved, neither party is satisfied with the outcome. Unfortunately, this is a more common phenomenon than most people contemplating divorce realize. So, the obvious question is – how can you and your spouse avoid becoming a statistic of the “divorce horror story”? While it would be nice if there was an easy and clear cut path you could follow that would ensure that you and your spouse avoided the divorce pitfalls, the reality is that there is nothing easy about divorce. However, if maintaining family relationships and reaching an agreement that is fair and reasonable to both of you is what is most important, then mediation may be the best fit for you and your family.
Mediation is a cost effective alternative to litigation wherein the parties choose a neutral professional, to assist them in navigating through both emotional and financial roadblocks, so that a written agreement on all issues can eventually be reached. It is important to remember that although a mediator is not an advocate for either spouse, a good mediator will help the parties reach an equitable agreement that both parties can live with long after the divorce is finalized. Thus, choosing the mediator that is a good fit for you and your spouse is a critical factor in whether or not mediation will be successful for you.
However, no matter how knowledgeable and effective a mediator may be, mediation will not be successful if the parties are unable to engage in basic communication with one another or feel there is a power imbalance or that their spouse will not fully disclose information necessary to resolve this case. If you think mediation may be a good alternative to litigation for you and your spouse, it is important to investigate potential mediators to find the one who will best meet your needs. Research online for websites that offer information on Mediation, research your state’s local Professional Mediators Association or associations for conflict resolution; ask friends or co-workers who you know have been through the process who they have used and what their experience was like. Once you have obtained some names of mediators, you and your spouse schedule initial consultations with 2 or 3 Mediators so you can determine what type of mediator and mediation approach works best for you and your spouse and whose personality seems to be the best fit and leaves you with the most confidence that your mediation will be successful.
In the end, while mediation cannot change the fact that you and your spouse are divorcing, it can change how you divorce and the impact your divorce has on you and your children.