How do you know if you and your spouse are suitable candidates for mediation? The answer is much easier to answer than you might think. Most think that they still have to be good friends with their spouse, or both need to be emotionally in the same place for mediation to work. It is much more straightforward than that. At its core, you need your spouse and you to be both motivated to keep costs down, keep emotions down, and get the process done as quickly as possible.
There are many things that people heading through divorce need to resolve. They need to figure out what the parenting schedule is going to be. We have to deal with supporting the children, making sure their healthcare is protected, and arranging for payment of any extracurricular and work-related childcare needs. They need to determine if alimony is needed to allow one spouse time to get back on their feet and maintain the “marital standard of living.” They have to figure out how their marital home will be divided; are we selling it, or is someone staying there. They have to divide all their retirement, bank, and brokerage accounts. And finally, we have to figure out how the debt will be divided.
Indeed, many things need to be resolved in any divorce. While many people want the process to be easy and quick, so many things can derail a divorce and send it to a truly dark place. The way you start your divorce will dictate how much money you spend. It will dictate whether your children are scared by the process. It will dictate whether you and your ex-spouse can continue a working relationship or even a friendship. It will dictate how long the divorce will last. It will dictate how you feel about the end of your marriage.
What should your first step be? Well, if you think running out to an attorney is where you should first, you are wrong. Specific emergencies require the attention of an attorney. However, in ninety percent of divorces, you should not let your instinct, guided by all the people churning your ears, lead you to pay a hefty retainer and get an attorney involved. As a divorce attorney for almost twenty years, I speak from experience that the vast majority of attorneys have little to no motivation to make divorce quick, cheap, and easy on your family. That is a fact.
All divorce attorneys are not evil or out to bleed you dry. But, you have to keep in mind what their goal is in a divorce case. They are litigators. That means that like going to court and using their legal skills to argue for your best-case scenario. Seldom will they counsel you that divorce is not a zero-sum game. Advancing your best position is counterproductive if you want to get it done in a way that you can feel content about. It does you no good to hear about what “you are entitled to” if you will have to spend a year of your life and tens of thousands of dollars to “maybe” get it.
With divorce mediation, you can immediately start having those productive conversations with your spouse from day one. By focusing on compromise and cooperation, you avoid the trap of a contested divorce with a plaintiff and a defendant and a court proceeding. None of that will help you positively reach the end. Divorce is difficult. Do not make it more difficult by letting attorneys lead you down the path of litigation and fighting. Focus on resolution. Your children deserve it. YOU deserve it. Give divorce mediation a chance before you go down the path to the dark side.