- Are you ready to get divorced, but can’t afford to hire a lawyer?
- Are you thinking about divorce, but are concerned about how it will affect your family?
- Are you simply paralyzed because you don’t understand the process and how it will affect you in the long-term?
You didn’t need an attorney to get married, and you don’t need one to get divorced. If you are contemplating separation or divorce, before meeting with an attorney, consider meeting with a mediator. “Civil litigation” is rarely civil, and more often than not, results in tremendous financial hardships and unnecessary hostilities between two people who cared enough about each other at one time to get married and/or have children together! Mediation, in contrast, accepts the ultimate end of a relationship, and seeks to amicably sort out all of the issues without the need for court intervention. In the end, the “marital being” is parted into two individual beings, who can co-exist and move forward living their separate lives.
In today’s challenging economy, why spend tens of thousands of your hard-earned dollars on lawyers, when you can achieve your goals more cost-effectively using a mediator? Many lawyers charge a retainer of $2,500 – $5,000, and that’s just to get started! Divorces can cost anywhere from $20,000 – $75,000+ … and those are the “simple” divorces! Divorce is rarely simple, and when litigators get involved, what was once simple quickly becomes complicated. On the other hand, mediation is often charged on an hourly basis ($250 – $400/hour), and final results are often achieved for less than $2,500.
How does it work? You and your spouse identify and agree upon a certified family law mediator. To assure a good working relationship, it is a good idea for both of you to separately speak with the mediator before committing to working together. Most initial phone consultations are free. Prior to the first meeting, you may be asked to prepare a list of all of your assets and all of your liabilities. This exercise will help streamline much of the discussion around financial issues. It is also helpful to bring all supportive documentation with you.
Each case is different and there is no “cookie cutter” methodology to approaching your mediation. While the basic framework of every divorce, alimony and/or child support calculation, time-sharing/custody matters, equitable distribution, or modification may be similar, each case is often unique and requires the attention of an experienced mediator. The role of the mediator will be as a neutral third-party, namely, a disinterested party who can assess the issues objectively and help the parties achieve their own resolution. A mediator doesn’t force anyone to accept any terms of an agreement, but rather, coaches the parties towards an amicable resolution.
Equitable distribution is simply the division of property, which includes the marital home, any savings, investments, 401Ks, pensions, automobiles, personal property, and any other assets. It also includes a frank discussion of how debts will be handled, including credit cards, home equity lines, and any existing mortgages (even if the house has a negative equity.)
Once all of the issues have been thoroughly discussed to the satisfaction of both parties, the mediator will prepare a draft Mediated Settlement Agreement. It is customary to have each party have the agreement reviewed by an independent attorney of each party’s choosing, though it is not required. Once the Agreement is executed and duly witnessed, the parties then file the Agreement, along with other supportive pleadings (most are pro forma for the court, and are available online) to effectuate a final judgment.
In these stressful times, mediation is a proven method to achieve your goals (get divorced, modify child support, terminate alimony, etc.), while minimizing the financial and emotional costs on you and your family.