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Mediation: For a Better, More Affordable Divorce

Nov 30, 2014 06:32PM ● By Pamela Johnson
Litigation is expensive. Costs in a litigated divorce can easily and quickly escalate into tens of thousands of dollars, particularly when the issues in dispute involve custody, visitation, support and division of marital assets.  One  party (if not both) is often dissatisfied with the outcome, either because they are forced to live by the terms dictated by a judge or perhaps felt that there was no other choice than to sign an agreement they were not really happy with.  The goal of mediation is to be a more cost-effective way to approach divorce that leaves the parties with an agreement that they are both comfortable with, mainly because they themselves crafted its terms.

Mediation is a voluntary and confidential process whereby a neutral third party assists a couple with face-to-face discussions about issues important to them and their family.  The mediator assists them in crafting solutions that best fit their goals and needs.  Generally mediations take place over several meetings that usually run about two hours at a time, during which the mediator will look for background information and ask the parties to bring in any relevant documentation, such as tax returns, pay stubs and financial account statements.  The mediator will guide them as they discuss issues and work toward reaching agreements.  Once the mediation is complete, the mediator can draft a Memorandum of Understanding, which outlines the agreements they have reached. 

A mediator who is an attorney may also, with client approval, draft a Separation Agreement that the couple will ultimately present to the Court for approval. The attorney mediator can also assist the couple with drafting additional paperwork that will be required by the Court.  It is important to note that although a couple may reach an agreement to divorce, a Court must review and approve any Separation Agreement for a divorce to be granted.
Mediation can be focused to address only one or two issues if that is what a couple need.  Other issues can be litigated if necessary.  Where mediation is voluntary, it can be as limited or expansive as the parties want or need it to be.

By choosing mediation, a couple do not waive their right to have an attorney.  Before signing the Separation Agreement, either or both may have an attorney review the terms that resulted from mediation. Some people even feel better having an attorney by their side when they go to Court for the required divorce hearing where the judge will review and, hopefully, approve the Separation Agreement.  Also, they are not prohibited from seeking relief from the Court if that becomes necessary or that is what they choose to do. 
In addition to reducing costs and stress, mediation is designed to keep people’s exposure to the Court as limited as possible. Nobody likes to go to Court, and couples with mediated agreements tend to spend less time in Court than couples who litigate their divorce. Mediated agreements also tend to stand the test of time longer than litigated agreements because the parties themselves crafted the terms.

Hence, while litigation is expensive, mediation is not, and may often produce a better, longer-lasting result.

written by Attorney Timothy J. Teehan

 The Law Office of Timothy J. Teehan ( practices family law, bankruptcy, estate planning, and personal injury and offers mediation services. This article is informational in nature and is not intended to establish an attorney-client relationship. For more information please contact The Law Office of Timothy J. Teehan, (774) 571-2893  or [email protected].




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