The Benefits of Mediaiton
by Lee Chabin, Esq.
Amy and Richard were at a crossroads, one that practically every divorcing couple faces. The marriage was over; that was clear to both of them. But how would they get divorced? In court through litigation, or outside of it through mediation?
Mediation is a process that allows people – including those ending the marital relationship – to manage and resolve their conflicts. Not everyone is a good candidate for mediation; but for the many people who are, this method of dealing with their issues has many benefits, including that it:
Allows for improved communication and encourages cooperation: Spouses are helped to listen to and understand one another, and then to work together in reaching agreements that make the most sense for themselves (and their children, if they have any).
Richard had been fearful of ‘losing’ his children, but when Amy was able to say that her husband was a good father and that she wanted him to be involved with their kids, the argument was transformed into a discussion. The couple talked about how to spend time with the children and how to make decisions for them. It was a conversation that had been impossible for the couple before then.
Is Faster than court proceedings: Many spouses successfully complete mediation within three – six months. Over that time period, the mediator will often meet with the clients for six to twelve hours. Richard and Amy were done in seven months, and worked with the mediator for ten hours. Then, like most divorcing couples, they had their agreements written and filed with the court.
Is less expensive than litigation: Generally speaking, mediation clients will pay far less to professionals than those going to court. Say that a couple mediates for twelve hours, which is often on the high side for divorce cases. At $300/hr, that would cost $3,600 – a fee that many spouses decide to split between them.
Contrast that to the costs incurred when each spouse pays her/his own attorney to litigate. Make up your own estimate of each lawyer’s hourly rate, and the number of hours necessary to handle the case. Mediation wins; no contest.
Is based on ‘informed decision making’: Clients provide financial and other information, and share it with the mediator and one another. The mediator helps to ensure that each spouse understands the current financial situation: income and expenses, assets and debts. Future goals and needs are discussed, and often different options (ways to meet those needs) are considered. Parties can make wise decisions only when they understand where they are and what they may need going forward.
Is flexible: Financial, mental health and other experts can become involved in the process, if the parties decide to bring them in. Need someone to value a property? Mediation allows for that. Want to consult with an attorney, or even have your lawyer at mediation sessions? That can happen in mediation. In their case, Amy and Richard decided to meet with an accountant to learn about how they could best employ alimony (spousal maintenance) as a tax savings strategy.
Is the parties who make the decisions: The spouses decide whether to reach any agreements; and, if they do, they decide on the terms of their agreements. ‘What should be done with the house and the retirement accounts?’ ‘What will the parenting schedule look like?’ The couple decides. Not a mediator; not a lawyer; and, not a judge.
More on these benefits of mediation can be found on my blog (Link: http://lc-mediate.com/blog/). Wondering about ‘what divorce mediation is really like’? Please read my four-part piece on “A Divorce Mediation Case” beginning with Part 1: The Decision to Try & the Consultation. (Link: http://lc-mediate.com/blog/2015/10/19/a-divorce-mediation-case-part-1-of-4-the-decision-to-try-the-consultation/).
New York City and Long Island-based divorce and family mediator Lee Chabin helps clients end their relationships respectfully and without going to court. Contact him at lee_, (718) 229–6149, or go to http://lc-mediate.com/. Follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/lchabin.
Disclaimer: All material in this column is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.