I’ve been a divorce lawyer for 22 years (youthful appearance notwithstanding!) and I’ve learned a lot about what works and what does not work when you’re getting divorced.
I also got divorced myself. That was a big lesson, too. Thankfully it was on the “what works” list as opposed to the “what doesn’t work” list.
When you’re faced with a divorce or other family law case (custody, support, domestic partnership, cohabitation), you have the best chance for success in resolving everything at stake if you mediate.
I know, that sounds a little self-interested, since I’m a full time mediator….but I became a mediator by giving up a very high paying divorce lawyer job because I knew it was time to be part of the solution, and not part of the problem. I traded my fancy car for a 2002 Honda Accord and 11 years later I still value helping families through this difficult life transition (divorce).
Here’s how it works:
In mediation, you and your spouse or partner will work with a neutral professional, often a lawyer or a therapist trained in mediation, or both (but non-attorneys make good mediators, too). Their job is to help you settle your case, from cars and pots and pans to parenting plans for children, support, and retirement accounts.
Shop around, as mediators’ styles vary greatly. Ask if there’s a free orientation or initial consultation. Decide what kind of mediator might work for your situation. This is a very personal process so you want to be able to make a connection with your mediator.
Mediators’ styles might include:
- Making suggestions
- Informing you about the law
- Telling you what others have done in your situation
- Outlining your options
- Helping you think of different ways to resolve a problem
- Facilitating communication
- Making sure the discussion is balanced, productive, and respectful
- Writing down agreements
- Helping you with court paperwork (or doing it for you)
- Helping you to stay on task and finishing discussions, because when discussions become difficult, it’s tempting to just change the subject
- Whatever else you ask them to do
Not all mediators do all these things, so ask.
In our practice, we design the mediation to fit the clients’ needs, while following some proven steps we know help mediations be successful.
For example, we insist that we make an agenda (all together, all ideas count) of everything that needs to be decided. We do this very early in the process. This helps everyone stay organized.
We insist on making the agenda list—but that list will include whatever the clients want to include, even if it isn’t on our checklist. And we get some unusual topics sometimes: pet visitation, dividing Beanie Baby collections, creating a shared story that both parents can tell the children about the divorce, you name it.
So the agenda is part of the office’s “best practices” but what the agenda includes is completely up to the clients. We find that this kind of structure makes more mediations successful than if we didn’t follow these procedures (and the agenda is just one of several)…but the topics, timing, discussion, format and priorities belong to the clients.
Mediation is about 90% less expensive than hiring 2 lawyers and litigating in court. I know that’s hard to believe, but it’s true. And even if your case is very difficult and complicated, it’s still a better process and it results in long term success because the people who are living with the outcome (the couple) have so much input into the final agreement.
Mediation typically attracts some very nice people who are having an extremely bad day. Divorce is really stressful and a very sad experience (generally) and we never forget how hard it is to sit in our office and talk about everything you care about in this world: your children, how they’re raised, your home, your financial security, and the dreams you had for this relationship. Mediation is the best way to go about dealing with this unfortunate situation.
If you want to find a mediator near you, Mediate.com will help you find a mediator if you’re not in the Los Angeles area.
Or, if you’re in the Los Angeles area, call for a free appointment today: