I recently attended a 40-hour divorce mediation training. Forty hours is the requirement in my state to practice as a divorce mediator. That’s not why I did it though. As a divorce coach, many of my clients are going through mediation and I wanted to support them as best as possible during the process. I truly believe that mediation is a better way to “do” divorce. And I believe that because I walked out of my first mediation meeting and never went back.
I had to learn the hard way that mediation was the kinder, gentler version of what we think of when we think of divorce. Don’t get me wrong. Mediation is still an emotional rollercoaster, but with mediation, you’re on the kiddie version versus The Tower of Terror. And like the kiddie rollercoaster, mediation feels slow, but it’s a much shorter ride and significantly less expensive than going through lawyers. I know now that walking out of mediation was the worst mistake I made in my divorce. Instead of going through a 3 – 6 month mediation process, my divorce took 2 years. And mediation would have cost me approximately $5,000 (in my state) versus the $45,000 that my lawyers cleaned out of my Roth IRA. Yes, clearly the worst mistake – but I didn’t know anything about mediation and no one gave me the information I needed (including the mediator I had hired) to help me make a better decision.
So, here is what YOU need to know about divorce mediation to help you make better decisions. Don’t make the mistake I did!
1. Mediation Is The Best Option
A generation ago, there were only two ways to get divorced and both involved lawyers. Today, there are actually 4 paths you can take to get divorced. Litigation is the one most people think of. A litigated trial is the Kramer vs Kramer version where lawyers are battling it out in a court room. Litigation is the bread and butter of divorce attorneys because it can take years for the case to go to trial, all at a hefty billable rate. A friend of mine went through a litigated divorce trial – in his case, it took 9 days in court and over a million dollars to get divorced. AND both parties were at the mercy of what the judge decided. Crazy, right? Clearly, the cases that get litigated are indicative of high emotion and a willingness to sacrifice the future (and a ton of money) over hurt from the past. The next most common divorce option is using your respective lawyers to negotiate an agreement. Again, this option can drag on a lot longer and cost a lot more than you’d like. Additionally, you are relying on your attorney to get you the best deal, which of course, they are happy to do -- at their own pace -- at $500/hour. The negotiation is largely out of your hands as both attorneys are negotiating an agreement based on their experience of what a court will consider “usual.” And of course, the court system tries to drive everything to a happy medium, even if it is completely unsatisfactory to both parties. Another option gaining more popularity today is collaborative divorce.