Divorce court can take weeks, months, and sometimes years before you and your spouse resolve your issues. And the entire time the expenses continue to mount, with attorneys, court fees, and sometimes experts costing their fair share.
Yet there is a third cost not associated with time and money. This refers to the emotional toll that divorce court can take from you, which can leave you drained and struggling to recover for sometimes years after the final decree is signed.
Divorce court can also be painful for children, especially if the couple is at odds. When emotions run high, the emotional toll can become exacerbated by the divorcing couple and their children.
While not all divorce court battles are plagued with drawn-out fights, excessive costs, and emotional turmoil, many are, which makes mediation an attractive alternative for many divorcing couples.
Divorce mediation gives you the chance to sort matters with your spouse like spousal support, child support, child visitation, and asset division during simple sessions that are amicable more often than not.
Here are fifteen benefits of divorce mediation versus divorce court that may sway you off the fence and into the right direction.
Benefits of Divorce Mediation Over Divorce Court
1. You Select Your Own Mediator
When you go to court, you are assigned to a docket for a specific family law Judge. You have very little control over which judge you get and are relegated to the pool of Judges that preside over the county in which you filed your divorce petition.
One of the most significant benefits of divorce mediation is that you get to pick the mediator. You can choose someone whose personality meshes with yours. You can interview mediators, as most provide free consultations, and ask plenty of questions. You can assess the professional’s knowledge and get a general idea about how they will guide you and your spouse during the mediation process.
When you retain control over your mediator, you feel more empowered, which is an excellent first step to moving forward with a healthier divorce.
2. Encourages Family Cooperation
Divorce court is notorious for spousal wars, and collateral damage often affects the children. Divorce mediation, on the other hand, is considered to be friendlier to families and children. Even though you and your spouse are splitting up, you are still co-parents to your children. And even if there are no children involved, you and your spouse can at least agree to remain on friendly terms.
A prime benefit of divorce mediation is that you can cooperate with your spouse on all matters, which can include the selection of a mediator. When everyone gets along, the entire process goes more smoothly, and children are less affected by the impact of you and your spouse splitting up.
3. Bring an Attorney if You Want
Going to divorce court makes hiring an attorney a necessity, especially if you want a fair divorce settlement. With divorce mediation, you are not required to show up with your attorney. Another prime benefit of mediation is that you can take full control of the process if you have the mental and emotional capacity at this time to do so.
While we recommend always retaining the services of an attorney for divorce court or divorce mediation, it is up to you if you want a lawyer by your side. A divorce attorney can answer your questions and help to direct your arguments toward the fairest settlement, which can be helpful during the divorce mediation process.
However, your mediator will guide you and your spouse to a fair end, regardless if attorneys are present or not, letting you decide if you want to hire an attorney.
4. Meet in a Comfortable Setting
Divorce court offers a formal setting where strict rules direct how the proceedings are conducted. You stand when instructed, sit when told, and when you speak you only have a certain amount of time to state your case before the other side counters.
Mediation is much more laid back. Instead of meeting in a courtroom with a bailiff and court reporter, you might meet in a boardroom in an attorney’s office. The mediator isn’t there to judge over you and your spouse. Instead, the mediator is there to direct the process and to be a guiding light to help you and your spouse find a peaceful resolution.
You can speak calmly, and you don’t once have to say, “Your honor.” For many, this is a very important benefit of divorce mediation, as court can be intimidating for many people.
5. Speak Your Mind Freely
Not only are you encouraged to remain calm during mediation sessions, but you can say what is on your mind at any time during the process. If you think that a figure is unfair or inaccurate, you can speak up, ensuring you get what you most want out of the divorce decree.
In court, your attorney might do most of the talking, or you may get short snippets of time to state your case. This may not be enough time to get out what you want to say, making free speech yet another excellent benefit of divorce mediation.
6. Full Transparency on Both Sides
Divorce mediation can only work when you and your spouse are open about all matters, including finances. You should plan to arrive at your mediation sessions with all your ducks in a row. That means having financial documents printed that relate to your savings and checking accounts, as well as retirement accounts. This goes for documents related to debt, as well. When you and your spouse are able to show in no uncertain terms how much you possessed as a couple in both assets and debts, the mediation sessions will go much more smoothly.
While the discovery process can ensure that both spouses are transparent about finances and debt, many times there is pushback between one spouse or another. Spouses can try to hide assets, and sometimes attorneys have to work to find them, drawing out the divorce process even more.
With divorce mediation, both couples are open books, allowing the mediator to guide the two of you toward a resolution you can both be happy with.
7. The Mediator Will Guide You
A mediator does not rule over you and your spouse during mediation sessions. You can’t even be held in contempt of court, because mediation doesn’t involve court at all.
With mediation, your mediator acts as a neutral third party. The professional is well-versed in family law and how it applies to your unique situation. The mediator can answer your questions and set you at ease about the divorce process.
When it comes to making decisions, the mediator can help you envision multiple scenarios that might work for you and your spouse. You can weigh these options and state your case, and the mediator can only help you find a peaceful resolution, but the mediator cannot get there for you.
With mediation, you and your spouse are in charge of coming to a fair agreement. The difference between mediation and court is that the mediator is there to ensure you and your spouse find the resolution you want as efficiently as possible.
8. Get Your Questions Answered
When you hire an attorney in preparation to go to divorce court, it is best to get your questions answered before court is actually in session. If you have a question when the Judge acts you a question, for instance, your time for getting a thorough answer is short. You won’t have much time to confer with your attorney, as Judges don’t like it when people waste their time. This can put you under pressure and lead to you making hasty decisions you might not wholly believe in, and that could negatively affect the rest of your life.
With divorce mediation, your mediator is there to answer your questions clearly and calmly during each session. This ability to turn to your mediator for guidance allows you and your spouse to both be on the same page since you are meeting in the same room under more comfortable circumstances.
9. You Can Get a Fair Settlement
A contentious divorce in court could go either way and might boil down to which spouse has the most aggressive attorney. Tensions usually run high, and emotions run rampant, and you never quite know what you will end up with regards to debt division, spousal support, or child support.
You are free to state your case in mediation sessions using facts and not emotion. Your mediator can help you and your spouse figure asset division, the division of debts, and amounts relating to alimony and child support that are fair for both of you.
Your mediator isn’t out to get one spouse or the other. Your mediator can’t even take sides. Instead, your mediator wants more than anything to see you and your spouse both receive what you need to proceed with the next chapter of your lives.
10. Construct a Parenting Plan That Works
If there are children involved, divorce court can sometimes see parents pitting the kids against one another. The couple may fight over who is the primary caregiver and how much time to split between the children, and how much money one spouse should give to the other for child support. These hard-fought battles can be extremely tough on children, leading to years of potential trauma.
Divorce mediation is considered more kid friendly. You and your spouse don’t have to fight during the mediation sessions. Instead, you can cooperate to find the very best parenting plan that works for all involved. The plan can include vacations and birthdays, medical care and schooling, and all other matters related to the raising of your children, including child support.
11. Full Involvement in Financial Decisions
Speaking of support, whether it’s spousal support or child support, you can show the mediator and your spouse why you feel you deserve the amounts you want. The figures that determine alimony, child support, health support, and other factors are determined using paperwork and actual figures. Instead of emotions muddling up the facts in court, divorce mediation lets you and your spouse see why the decisions were arrived at, allowing you both to feel at ease about all final decisions.
12. Walk Away with a Fair Shake
One of the most important benefits of divorce mediation is that you can close the book on your marriage feeling like you got what is rightfully yours. Whether it’s half the sale of the family home, half of the retirement account, or a child visitation and child support agreement you can live with, it helps to know that your sessions were a great success, letting you and your children move on positively with your life.
13. Save Time
Divorce court can take years to resolve, especially if you and your spouse are constantly at each other’s throats.
Instead of taking a bunch of time off work to meet with your lawyer or attend hearings, divorce mediation lets you split from your spouse in one or a few sessions, letting you end your divorce without disrupting the rest of your life.
14. Save Money
Divorce court can cost thousands of dollars, and you can end up paying even more if forensic accountants, private investigators, and other experts are used by your divorce attorney.
With divorce mediation, you don’t need experts, except the nominal fee you pay for the mediator’s services, and there are no court fees, allowing you to save immensely on your pending divorce.
15. Less of an Emotional Toll
Divorce court can drain you physically and emotionally. You can’t eat, you can’t sleep, and your entire world feels upside down. If your divorce case stretches into months or years, the emotional expense may be even greater, leading to a potential emotional breakdown.
With divorce mediation, you can have an amicable time sorting through your finances and the division of debt. You can speak about your children as loving parents who want what’s best for your kids. This lets you move on with your life without the heavy burden and emotional instability that can plague most divorce court cases.
A Few Tips to Help You Through a Divorce Mediation
Interview Several Mediators: Chances are you will have to meet with several mediators before settling on a professional you and your spouse both feel comfortable with. Your mediator should make you feel as though you have a trusted advocate acting as a neutral third party who is nuanced in the many facets of family law. After a few interviews, you should be able to find a professional who sets you and your spouse at ease.
Come Prepared: The whole process from start to finish will go smoother if you come to your sessions with all financial documents in hand. You should also bring school and medical records for your children, and any other documents that may be contended during your sessions.
Devise Multiple Scenarios: So that you can ensure a peaceful settlement, you may want to draw up a few scenarios you will be happy with regarding alimony, child support, child visitation, and what to do about the family home, for example. You may have a plan that includes one spouse staying in the home and paying the other for their half and another where you both sell the home outright. This flexibility allows for more open-mindedness, which is what mediation is all about.
What to Ask for in a Divorce Mediation
What You Feel You Deserve: If you want to walk away feeling like you received a fair shake, don’t be afraid to speak up. Tell your spouse what you want and why you feel you should have it. Be prepared to back up your views with facts and figures so that you are more likely to get what is rightly yours.
Ask Plenty of Questions: The more questions you ask, the better, as you will become a more informed divorcing party. Your mediator knows the ins and outs of family law, which can get complicated. Your mediator can set your mind at ease by educating you about how mediation works and how California’s family law applies to your unique situation.
Equal Time with Your Children: Mediation is all about what is best for the children. Make sure you request equal time with your children, whether you are named as the custodial or non-custodial parent. Your mediator wants what is best for the kids, too, and will help you and your spouse come to an agreement that brings the family together, even though you and your spouse are splitting up.
Get Your Questions Answered About Divorce Mediation
As you can see, there are many benefits to the divorce mediation process. If you still have questions, the experts at Fresh Start Mediation can help.