The Many Benefits of Divorce Mediation

The Many Benefits of Divorce Mediation by Fabienne Swartz

{4:30 minutes to read} Recently, I published an article about the benefits of consulting with a divorce attorney even if you have chosen to use mediation. I’ve received some constructive criticism from fellow mediators indicating that I should do a follow-up piece about the benefits of mediation — whether one decides to consult a lawyer or not.

For divorcing couples, mediation has some clear benefits over litigation. From cost to efficacy, here are some of the biggest reasons people should consider mediation first.

The mediation process facilitates a creative financial agreement that benefits both parties over the short term and the long term.

Example A: In one mediation I was involved with, the couple did not have much money. I examined each of their incomes and costs of living, to figure out how it was best to allocate alimony, child support, and costs like the children’s add-ons, cars, etc. so that neither spouse would be unevenly burdened while the children were still at home.

Because they were residents of Connecticut, when the children reached the age of 18 (this age varies from state to state), the husband no longer had to pay child support, leaving him with extra income. At that point, I moved some of the expenses back to him — but only enough to even things out again, not to drown him.

Example B: In another case I’m working on, child support will be paid. But there are also extracurricular statutory add-ons, which include unreimbursed medical expenses (required, not discretionary), as well as add-ons for camp, after-school activities, religious education, etc.

The father is paying child support, and he and the mother split the cost of the add-ons 50-50. If their financial situation changes — perhaps one of them makes more money next year — then we can adjust. Mediation allows for a great deal of flexibility.

Mediation can create a plan that is financially sound for both parties, not just one. If I’m intervening as a neutral, my job is not to make sure the wife can get as much as she can, but to make sure both parties can live by the agreement we are crafting together.

Mediation is more private than litigation. Even in mediation, at some point, separating couples will have to file in court, where the judge reads the agreement and signs off on it. But overall, there is much less publicity involved in mediation than in litigation.

Mediation is usually a fraction of the cost of litigation. Mediation can cost somewhere between $5,000 and $10,000 while litigation can easily run up to a $100,000.

Mediation aims to calm, rather than aggravate. Often, in a separation, one or both of the parties is angry and hurt. These raw emotions can make it difficult to reach a mutually beneficial solution. The very nature of litigation exacerbates this problem, frequently serving to antagonize the individuals. By contrast, mediation has the opposite intention. In fact, therapists are sometimes brought into the mediation process to help keep the tension down so that everyone can focus on the shared goals.

Mediation is often more effective. Since the couple comes to the decision together, they are more likely to stick with it. They are in a better position to cooperate with each other and to co-parent more smoothly. They are also able to come up with more creative and effective custody arrangements.

A good mediator will make people really think about the reasons behind their decisions. Once the parties understand the reasoning behind the agreement they’re crafting, they can respect each other more and respect the relationships they are both trying to build with their children.

All that being said, mediation is not right for everyone. Couples with a history of domestic violence, for example, will usually not benefit from mediation. But for many, many couples, mediation is a far more preferable option than litigation.

If you have questions about the mediation process, please contact me today.

Fabienne Swartz JD (Belgium) CDFATM
Certified Divorce Financial AnalystTM
www.financially-strong.com
500 Mamaroneck Av.
Suite 320
Harrison, NY 10528
(914) 798-6940

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