From knock-down, drag-out litigation to drafting an agreement at your kitchen table, there are many ways to get divorced. If you’re considering a divorce and researching your options, chances are that the option of mediation has come up at least once. Mediation can be a great out-of-court option for settling your divorce, or it could be completely the wrong fit for your situation. Before you embrace (or dismiss) mediation as an option for your family, consider the following biggest misconceptions about the process.
- Mediation is only for amicable divorces: Many people think that mediation will only work if they are on good terms with their spouse, or if they’re already in agreement about most of their issues. That’s not always the case. Using a mediator in a particularly contentious case can actually help bring the conflict under control. The litigation model encourages running to court every time a conflict arises. In particularly contentious cases with lots of conflict, the litigation model can mean many court appearances and astronomical legal fees. A mediator can help you define your issues and keep emotions under control while helping you work towards agreement. That being said, mediation is never recommended in cases that involve emotional, psychological, or physical abuse.
- Mediation is cheap: Mediation is usually cheaper than the standard litigation model, but not always. If mediation is not right for you to begin with, you may find yourself paying for countless sessions only to have the process break down, requiring you to start all over in litigation. In a situation where there is an imbalance of power or significant distrust between spouses, both spouses may want to hire individual mediation attorneys to help them through the mediation. In that case you are paying for two lawyers and a mediator. If you can come to an agreement quickly, it may be worth the cost. But if not, you could find yourself paying for three professionals instead of just two.
- Mediators are “tie-breakers”: Often mediation clients will each tell their mediator their own side of the story. Then they’ll sit silently waiting for the mediator to agree or disagree with one or the other. That is not the job of a mediator. A mediator is not a judge. They may tell you how the law might apply in certain situations or help you make a list of your options, but they’re not there to make the decisions for you or make judgments as to who is right and who is wrong.
- Mediation takes lawyers out of the equation: Many people gravitate towards mediation to avoid lawyers. They have the (mistaken) notion that lawyers will just complicate things, and they believe the absence of lawyers will make things easier and cheaper. While it’s possible to mediate without lawyers, at the very least you and your spouse should each hire separate lawyers at the end of the process to review the mediated agreement. Your mediator is a neutral third party and cannot provide legal advice to either of you. Hiring a lawyer to review the agreement helps ensure that what you are agreeing to is fair under the eyes of the law.
There’s truly no “right” way to get divorced, but it is imperative that you know and consider all of your potions before charging into a process that could make things more difficult than they need to be. Just because you may know someone who went through one type of divorce process doesn’t mean that it’s the best and most effective path for you to take. There are myths and misconceptions about all aspects of divorce, so as long as you are informed and prepared to ask the right questions in the beginning, you will feel a better sense of control throughout the process, and hopefully have the kind of outcome you’re aiming for.