As a professional divorce mediator, you might think I’d be happy when a couple gets a divorce. But nothing could be farther from the truth.
When I meet with new clients for the first time, I always start off by asking them if anything can be done to save their marriage. And if both of them think that there IS, I am happy to lose them as clients and instead, refer them to our coach or to a qualified marriage and family therapist.
Unfortunately, though, I know that despite some couples’ best efforts to save their marriage, it isn’t always possible. So if one or both spouses feel that their marriage is beyond repair and divorce is imminent, I want them to know that they don’t have to choose the contentious and financially ruinous path of litigation. There is a more peaceful and cost-effective option for the divorce process which will enable them to save a lot of time, money and heartache while working together to create an agreement they both find fair and equitable. That option is divorce mediation.
The 5 Steps of the Divorce Mediation Process
Step One – Choose Your Mediator
Mediation is currently an un-regulated profession; therefore, you will likely find mediators that come from many different walks of life such as social workers, therapists, financial professionals or attorneys. Some have little or no formal training or experience and that is why it’s important to choose the mediator who is right for you.
When selecting a mediator, ask what kind of experience they have with cases like yours. If you have a more straightforward case that doesn’t involve children, joint property or shared debts, you might decide that a new mediator will work for you. But if you’ve been married a long time, have children together, own property together or one or both of you is self-employed, you’re situation is much more complex. For this reason, you’ll likely want to choose a mediator who is an expert in both the laws and finances of divorce in order to help you reach a fair and equitable agreement.
Step Two – Pre-Mediation Prep
Once you’ve hired your mediator, the next step will be for each of you to gather a number of financial documents such as tax returns, bank statements, etc. and complete various worksheets. This will help the mediator to have a better understanding of your marital finances which will aid in negotiating the particulars of your case. Most couples can complete this phase in one to two weeks.
Step Three – Negotiation & Agreement
After you have sent the mediator all of the required documents and worksheets, he/she will meet with you for as many sessions as needed to discuss and come to agreement on all of the key issues. These may include a parenting plan, child support, alimony and the division of your marital assets and liabilities. It is common that there will be disagreement on some or all of these issues, however, a good mediator will bring options to the table, help you negotiate with each other and ultimately find common ground. Most couples can complete this phase in about four to eight weeks.
Step Four – Drafting & Review
The mediator then drafts a document called a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) outlining the details of
the agreement. The MOU also contains much of the input needed to file the divorce. Most couples can complete this phase in one to two weeks.
Step Five – Finalization & Filing
Once you and your spouse have reviewed and agreed on the tenants outlined in your final MOU, that document, along with the documents you gathered in step two and other relevant paperwork is used to file your divorce with the courts. Since this phase is outside of the mediation process and depends heavily on where you live, the length of the filling phase can vary wildly – anywhere from three to twenty six weeks.
If You Find Yourself Facing Divorce, Mediate Don’t Litigate
In my experience, 98% of my clients successfully complete the mediation process and save an average of $22,000 to $27,000 on the cost of their divorce. And since the settlement agreement reached in mediation is likely to be the same as it would have been had you hired attorneys and litigated, mediation is a better alternative to lengthy, costly and contentious litigation. You’ll move past your divorce in less time for less money and with far less damage to you and your children.
Equitable Mediation Services’ Founder & Managing Partner Joe Dillon oversees the firm’s practice areas of divorce mediation and divorce financial analysis and works personally with clients in Illinois, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. To learn more about Equitable Mediation and the services they offer visit www.equitablemediation.com or call (877) 732 6682 today.