Divorce Mediation Is Supposed To Be Different. I say supposed to be different, because what the legal system calls Alternative Dispute Resolution procedures can be very similar to litigation, or in some cases can be like blindly agreeing to just get it over with. Here are the details for those that are considered “The Latest and Greatest” divorce processes.
Collaborative Divorce with a Mediator
Here’s the skinny on collaborative divorce. Husband and wife each hire an attorney. The attorneys try to negotiate a settlement. The major advantage is that this is an out of court process. This is best for those couples who have accumulated a large asset base and have a cooperative approach to the process.
In more cases than not, the team expands to having a divorce mediator, a neutral financial specialist, and a neutral parenting expert (if children are involved).
The process parallels traditional old fashioned litigation in some ways. Each spouse must comply with providing information and documents. If either one refuses, the process ends.
Massive pages of documentation are reviewed by the attorneys, the divorce mediator, and the financial specialist. The attorneys attempt to bring husband and wife to a settlement. If they can’t, the process ends.
If there is any major resentment due to the cause of the divorce, or factors such as greed or hurt feelings, collaborative divorce could become a massive waste of time and money. If the collaborative process fails, the alternative is a court based litigation divorce. Also, if negotiations fail, none of the professionals familiar with the case are permitted to continue working on the case. All new professionals must be retained and paid to review the case and resume with the court process. In most cases, anywhere from $20,000 – $40,000 or more has already been spent on professionals who now are excluded from the balance of the divorce process. And let’s face it. Most divorcing couples do not walk in holding hands and singing Kumbaya.
So if you’re considering collaborative divorce and you believe your spouse is going to resist settling on something fair for you, it might be better to take your $20,000 and having a nice trip to Atlantic City or Las Vegas and playing the slots.
Divorce mediation is the latest rage and the benefits can be quite enticing. It’s a lot less expensive. It’s a lot faster. In divorce mediation you are guided through the negotiations. There are no attorneys.
Here’s how it works. As a couple you hire the mediator. That individual guides you through the different aspects of the issues that you need to discuss and settle on. You each do the same work you would do for an attorney, and divorce mediation is scheduled in the hopes that you will address and settle on all the details of your life in three or four sessions.
In many cases you don’t finish in those four sessions, and the time frame expands, and of course the expense increases when the mediator spends more time with you.
Most people don’t know that a divorce mediator is prohibited from suggesting solutions to your disagreements. Their role is to encourage you to become creative and develop your own resolutions.
Most people don’t know that mediators are prohibited from providing any financial advice. This can leave one or both spouses at a major disadvantage. The couple is left to make uninformed decisions that could lead to an unfair agreement.
Also, the mediator’s agreement is not considered a legal contract in many states and is not accepted by the courts for a final divorce. When an attorney drafts the agreement and the spouse retains an attorney to review it, in many cases portions of the agreement become disputed. In that case, you now step into a “traditional” divorce. Sometimes when something appears to be “too good to be true,” it is.
Divorce Mediation or Collaborative Divorce Preparation
Traditional litigious divorce, which should be your last resort. In that case, you retain an attorney who files for divorce with the court. That is the initial cannon shot, and the war begins. But for either mediation or collaborative divorce to be successful, you must be prepared!
So “what do I do?” you ask.
The first step to the solution is to prepare your strategies in advance… for everything.
My clients have found that starting with a list is the best method for getting and staying organized. We use my comprehensive Divorce Pre-Planning Checklist as step one in the Divorce Planning System.
We work through that together and from those personal details we are able to properly value your assets and prepare the negotiation strategies. This is all done BEFORE anything else.
This process becomes your personalized Exit Strategy… and most importantly…
you are able to avoid most conflict, stress, and unwanted or unexpected surprises.
When you work with me, you have a guide and mentor every step of the way, and you never feel alone. I can work with you independently during mediation or with your attorney during a collaborative process. And together we can set you up for a soft landing.
Explore what your Exit Strategy could look like. Your only investment is your time.
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