For those seeking to have a little more control over
decision-making in the divorce negotiation process, mediation is
an out-of-court option.
A mediator remains neutral throughout the divorce
process, facilitating a settlement and aiming for win-win situations
for both sides. Depending on the persons involved, mediation can
be cheaper than court costs, and can take less time. However, if
the process is taking longer than it should, a spouse may be using
the mediation as a stall tactic. If this is the case, get out of
the mediation, asserts Susan Goldstein, family law attorney and
co-author with Valerie Colb of The Smart Divorce: A Practical
Guide to the 200 Things You Must Know.
"Mediation has become a popular method of divorce
outside of the courtroom," says Margorie Engel, author and expert
in families complicated by divorce and remarriage. She says even
if you don't resolve every issue during in the process, at least
you can limit what is decided within the courts.
Although there are currently no standard credentials
required for mediators nationwide, some states and mediation organizations
have their own mediation codes and standards. Most states do have
Web sites outlining the legislation related to mediation and divorce,
according to the Academy of Family Mediators, www.mediators.org.
The AFM offers www.divorcereform.org as a site that includes most
the legislation for most states.
Goldstein strongly recommends choosing a mediator
that is a lawyer, and then checking to see if the lawyer has a bias
of their own. "The problem arises when someone later says, 'I was
entitled to so much more'; that's a problem that comes out when
non-lawyers do mediation," Goldstein says.
Keep in mind, when you sign a divorce agreement in
a mediation, it is a legally binding court order. When looking for
a mediator, Goldstein advises you to examine their retainer agreement,
which outlines what services are to be performed. Situations that
are not ideal for a mediation: if there is large discrepancy of
money or power, or alleged spousal abuse.
Mediation vs. Litigation
Mediation fees, a review by a consulting attorney and paperwork
preparation may cost less than $5,000.
Attorney fees run up to $30,000.
With a neutral mediator, you problem solve to design an agreement
that works for you and your family.
Your attorney will negotiate for you.
You can try out various parenting plans to see if they work.
You can modify the plans as your children get older without
returning to court.
The court will determine when you have custody of your children.
Changes can be made by: agreeing to them and filing with the
court or litigating -- having the judge decide if changes
Child support, spousal support and parenting plans are more
likely to be maintained when mutually decided.
Spouse may not feel committed to the results because of a
lack of participation in the process, bitterness fostered
during the proceedings or unfairness of the result.
Adapted from articles written by Royce Orleans Hurst, Esq.,
of the Law and Mediation Offices of Royce Orleans Hurst, Newport
Beach, Calif., cited by Divorcewizards.com
-- Posted: June 30, 1999