When a couple makes the decision to divorce, they may be sad and angry, but also scared. The image of divorce proceedings in popular culture is a drawn out, vicious process with attorneys and judges in control of the outcome
Litigated divorce is the basis of this stereotype. This is the route with adversarial lawyers, court dates, custody hearings and more. Fortunately, litigation is not always necessary. More and more couples are turning to mediation to arrange their divorce peacefully, privately, and politely.
In a mediated divorce, the couple works with a professional mediator who remains neutral in the process. The mediator helps the two people communicate and negotiate, and draw up their own divorce agreement. In a mediated divorce, lawyers and court may only be necessary to finalize the agreement.
A mediated divorce is not for everyone — it is not appropriate in divorces where violence or substance abuse are among the causes. However, it can be an excellent route for people who have mutual respect, want to get through the divorce process with minimal disruption for their children, and are willing to negotiate on matters of custody and division of assets.
Why is Mediation Preferable to Litigation?
–It’s less expensive.
According to Chinn and Associates, the average cost of a litigated divorce is around $27,000. The cost of a mediated divorce is generally 40-60 percent less.
In a litigated divorce, the couple is at the mercy of the court calendar and the schedules of many different people. In a mediated divorce, the majority of the process is conducted with just three people: the two members of the couple, and the mediator. It is easier to schedule, and negotiations tend to go more quickly with only a few people involved.
–It’s more private.
In a litigated divorce, every detail of a couple’s private life becomes potential fodder for court. Any testimony in court becomes part of a public record. There are no court reporters in a mediated divorce; in fact, the mediator even destroys their notes when the process is completed, and they are required to keep everything confidential.
–It’s more positive.
A mediated divorce process puts the couple on the same side, striving for a mutual goal. There are no winners and losers. A litigated divorce can be a wrenching and heartbreaking process not only for the couple, but for their children.
Moreover, the couple themselves create the divorce agreement rather than having it decreed by a judge. They will feel more committed to and comfortable with an agreement they hammered out themselves rather than resentful and powerless.
In a 2013 article in The Guardian, a woman going through the process said that the most important thing was that she felt safe: “afe in feeling that we are doing things the right way, the best way possible. It’s an unfortunate, painful situation but knowing you’re doing things the right way – especially for your child – is priceless.”