Divorce is always difficult and all too often brings out the worst in people. Whether it be fighting over custody, property, alimony or the family dog, it seems like splitting up usually starts World War 3. And where does all this fighting get them? A large attorney fee bill, more hurt feelings and sometimes hurt children.
However, there is another way! When both parties can take a step back, and stop trying to “win” or hurt the other person, splitting up a family can often be resolved without the emotional cost and expense of extensive litigation. Sure there will still be hurt feelings on all sides, but at least you aren’t at each other’s throat for months or years trying to resolve the main issues of a divorce. This compromise can sometimes be reached by using a mediator.
A mediator is a person trained in facilitating a compromise between two parties. Sometimes the mediator is a judge who is appointed by the Divorce Court, sometimes it is a lawyer who is specially licensed and trained in mediation, and sometimes it can even be a layperson who is employed by a court mediation service like “Early Settlement Mediation.” The cost of a mediator varies depending on who is conducting the mediation. Some court services like Early Settlement Mediation and an appointed judge may be free. A lawyer who specializes in mediation usually charges an hourly rate of $200+ with a minimum fee. There are pros and cons to each and it largely depends on the issues involved and how much value there is in the marital estate. For instance, you don’t want to be paying a $2,000 mediation fee to fight over $5,000.
Mediations of all these types are usually run much the same. Each party will appear with their lawyer and be put into separate rooms. The mediator will meet with each party separately to get a feel for what the issues are. They will then first try to find common ground and then begin to reach a compromise on the more contested issues. If each party is being halfway reasonable, mediation can take some of the stress out of the process and give each of the parties an unbiased second opinion on what the real issues are.
I want to stress that mediation only works if the parties are truly willing to compromise and do what’s best for the family. If a party is trying to prove a point, or only give the other person what “they deserve,” then it will never work and is a waste of time and money.
If you have any questions about mediation, or the divorce process, feel free to call me for a free consultation at 580.249.9100. I’m here to help.