As a divorce mediator and divorce coach, I talk to clients every day about the benefits of divorce mediation – because they are interested in divorcing without attorneys, because the court has required them to mediate, or because I’ve been contacted by a divorce attorney to mediate for their clients. I love talking to anyone who will listen to me about the power of mediation in divorce – sometimes people “get it” right away and are anxious to start working through the issues and challenges that face them through mediation. Sometimes, sadly, clients just “want their day in court” or to “get what’s fair”, which to them means having a judge decide things for them.
Unfortunately, most of the time people who end up going to court don’t end up getting the results they were hoping for. The fact of the matter is that you don’t actually really want the judge to make up your mind for you – you give up control over the outcome and then have to live with the ruling, regardless of whether or not you think it’s “fair”.
And with that, I give you…
5 Benefits of Divorce Mediation
Effectiveness. According to the American Bar Association, a well-trained mediator can settle more than 75% of pretrial disputes with mutual satisfaction and a high rate of compliance. Because both parties are actively involved, they have a higher commitment to upholding the settlement than people who have a judge decide for them.
Confidentiality. What happens in mediation stays in mediation. Until it gets written into a stipulation and gets submitted to the court to become an order. Court cases are matters of public record – not so mediation. One of the great things about this is that it allows parties to talk freely with each other and the mediator, look at different options, and even apologize to one another, without having to worry about it being held against them or seen as an admission of guilt. Once the parties DO agree on things, at that point it will be written up and submitted. Everything else remains entirely confidential and is not admissible in any legal proceeding without the written consent of both parties.
Convenience. Especially nowadays, when everything, including mediation, can be conducted online. It can be scheduled at a mutually convenient time to accommodate participants’ schedules There are no strict rules of procedure, which allows parties to find the best path to agreement. It can deliver creative, flexible outcomes that go beyond those that can be delivered by a judge, and it can deal with multiple parties with a variety of issues at one time.
Affordability. The average cost, per person, to litigate a divorce in the United States is $15,000 and it can rise rapidly from there, depending on circumstances. With a custody battle, it can easily escalate to $50,000 or more. This cost will include court fees, attorney fees, paralegal fees, legal assistant fees, outside specialist fees, and mediation fees. The cost of a divorce is, in part, determined by the length of time the process takes, which in this country averages between 4-12 months. If it does to to trial, it can easily take upward of a year. If you are able to avoid litigation and work together with a neutral third party (ie. a mediator) with or without a couple of other professionals (I always recommend a financial advisor and a divorce coach), you will be saving tens of thousands of dollars.
It’s about relationships and communication. Unlike litigation, which is at its core confrontational, mediation can help preserve ongoing relationships and lay a foundation for constructive communication moving forward. Mediation can often be a healing process in which parties can speak candidly and honestly about their problems and work together to find a solution that addresses everyone’s issues and concerns. Those solutions have a much higher compliance rate because they have been crafted collaboratively by the parties. This is particularly important when there are children involved.
Mediation is not always the best solution for divorcing couples, but it is very often required by the court regardless of whether parties have also retained attorneys. So it’s worthwhile understanding and preparing for the process.
To learn more about divorce and family law, visit your local bar association – they can direct you to attorneys, mediators, and many other resources.