Divorce is often expensive, but it usually doesn’t have to be. It took me over four years and several highly litigated court cases before I finally concluded on a very expensive, highly contested divorce. That was before I learned about mediated divorce, also known as collaborative divorce.
What is mediated divorce?
According to writer Christy Rakoczy at Divorcenet, “A mediated divorce is one in which you and your spouse work out your own divorce settlement with the help of an independent, neutral third party, called a mediator… you don’t go to court, and a judge is not involved other than to approve your settlement when it’s complete.”
If you can do it, having this kind of collaborative divorce is usually better for all involved parties. Unfortunately, it’s not always possible.
The cost of divorce
When thinking of the costs of divorce, you can very easily draw an analogy to war, right? No war is cheap to any economy, and yet we go to war because of unresolved conflict, differences that cannot be agreed upon. We do the counterintuitive thing and choose to go into battle, all for an outcome where nobody really wins. Why? Because war and divorce can be very, very expensive.
Divorce doesn’t have to be expensive
Divorce can–and does–turn into a war. Sometimes it can’t be helped, but a lot of a time it can. Parties have the choice to fight or collaborate. The keyword here is CHOICE. What I realize now in hindsight is, that divorce is as expensive as the broken couple makes it. Ultimately the expense is borne out of the fight of battling egos, anger, conflict, hurt, and pain. Too often, the cost of divorce can supersede any assets or wealth, and both parties end up worse off than they started.
The benefits of a mediated divorce
You’ve probably heard the word before, but if you’re like me, you don’t understand this process well enough to benefit from the merits of mediated divorce. For me that changed when I decided to be a Family Law Mediator.
Like the founders of Divorcist, I decided to become the thing I didn’t have when I needed it most: the Family Law Mediator I would have wanted.
What is mediation for divorce?
The benefits of mediation may not be fully understood if you don’t understand what mediation is. Key properties of mediation are as follows:
- It’s a voluntary process
- It’s entered into by agreement between the parties
- An impartial and independent person, the mediator, assists the parties to resolve the dispute between them
- He or she helps identify issues upon which agreement can be reached and explores options to resolve the dispute
- The mediator facilitates discussions between the parties and assists them in their negotiations to resolve the dispute
Embarking on the mediation process to settle family disputes is contrary to what we have been programmed to believe. Our experience tells us that divorce is expensive, divorce is hard, divorce is complicated. We are told we need a lawyer to get divorced and that we need to get back at the spouse for the trauma and anguish that they caused in our lives. Divorce doesn’t need to be like this. You can get a settled divorce using a mediator in a fraction of the time and the cost that it would cost to litigate. These are the biggest benefits.
Remember, nobody actually wins in a divorce
Costs for a contested divorce escalated substantially. Not just direct costs of the legal practitioner, but indirect costs too relating to the trauma of the breakup e.g., therapy, healing, and additional court appearances that may spin off because of the divorce.
But it doesn’t have to be that bad
Uncontested divorces via mediation usually can be settled in 4-6 sessions if not less, depending on the party’s willingness to have an open mind and be collaborative in the process.
Compromising will need to take place. Life cannot be expected to be the same as when you were married. The alternative? Contest, fight, lose money, and be unhappy. This affects your children, the ability to move on, future relationships, work, etc.
Is a collaborative/mediated divorce worth it?
If you think if your energy as currency, yes. Think about all the lost time, money, and mental space that you lose in a long, drawn out contested divorce. Personally, I have endured this anguish, and I can safely say: save the money you’d use to fight your spouse and use it to heal and grow instead.
The benefits of mediated divorce:
Saves you money
Mediation is generally less expensive when contrasted to the expense of litigation or other forms of fighting.
Saves you time
It may take as long as a year to get a court date, and multiple years if a case is appealed, the mediation alternative often provides a timelier way of resolving disputes. When parties want to get on with business or their lives, mediation may be desirable as a means of producing faster results. The sooner you settle, the sooner everyone can move on with their lives
Mutually beneficial outcomes
Parties are generally more satisfied with solutions that have been mutually agreed upon, as opposed to solutions that are imposed by a third-party decision-maker.
Compliance with the agreement
Parties who have reached their own agreement in mediation are also generally more likely to follow through and comply with its terms than those whose resolution has been imposed by a third-party decision-maker. This prevents wasting of time of having to report non-compliance of court orders
Customized and comprehensive agreements
Mediated settlements can address both legal and other issues. Mediated agreements often cover procedural and psychological issues that are not necessarily susceptible to legal determination. The parties can tailor their settlement to their unique situation.
You control the outcome
Parties who negotiate their own settlements have more control over the outcome of their dispute. What you can gain or rescind is more predictable in a mediated settlement than it would be if a case is litigated
People who negotiate their own settlements often feel more powerful than those who use advocates, such as lawyers, to represent them. The decision is in your hands and you can be creative and collaborative in crafting them for everyone’s benefit.
Preservation of family relationships
A mediated settlement that addresses all parties’ interests can often preserve the family unit in ways that would not be possible in a win/lose decision-making procedure where there are fights. Mediation can also make the termination of a relationship more amicable, especially since the conflict is managed through the mediator and not with the parties arguing with each other. The mediator is equipped to manage the process, whilst the parties decide the outcome.
Workable and implementable decisions
Parties who mediate their differences can attend to the details of how the agreement will be implemented. Mediated agreements can include specially tailored procedures for how the decisions will be carried out. This fact often enhances the likelihood that parties will comply with the terms of the settlement since they decide on the terms.
The choice is yours
When I became single again, the sheer power of choice that I had was thrilling. Just the ability to be able to choose what I do, when I do it, and how I do it was quite a rush.
Get a head start on choosing your own path before you’re even divorced: mediation empowers you with the ability to make those choices for yourself and your future. If you could make any good decision for the future, it would be to consciously uncouple in a manner that will be beneficial for you both, for the children, and for your future. Divorce does not have to be expensive. You choose for it to be. Choose wisely, choose better, and choose mediation.
This content is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice.
About the Author:
Shubnum Khan is an internationally accredited (with the ADR international Register) Family Law Mediator based in South Africa.She is also a member of the Young Mediators Initiative with the International Mediation Institute
Her purpose and passion of choosing to be a Mediator was born out of her own highly litigated, conflicted divorce. She is an IT executive, who has now opted to assist couples part peacefully and work on minimising the conflict through mediated settled agreements as opposed to litigated divorces.
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