Mediation Instead of Litigation for your Divorce:
How this Alternative Dispute Resolution Method Can Help You Reduce Cost, Expedite the Process, and Decrease the Stress and Intimidation Factor.
For anyone who has gone through, or is currently going through a divorce, you know it is one of the most stressful, expensive, and lengthy processes you will ever encounter. Your world has been turned upside down. Where are you going to live? Can you make it on one income? How will this impact your children? The number of questions swirling through your head is enough to make even the strongest person feel as though they no longer have control of their lives.
When a marriage ends, the level of depression and grief is comparable to losing a loved one. You have spent years building a life with your spouse and now you find yourself squaring off with them in the arena of the justice system. The love you once had now turns to hate, and the deeper you get into the litigation process, the stronger your hatred grows for the person you once vowed to love forever. You fight over everything, even down to the smallest of insignificant possessions. And for some couples, their desire to "win" turns their children into bargaining chips, and in turn, collateral damage.
But what if I told you there was a better way? A way that allows you to control the process, control the conversation, and control your emotions. What if I told you there was a way you could skip the intimidation of a courtroom and replace it with a comfortable office? And what if I told you there was a way to reduce the cost, decrease your anxiety, and help you move into the next chapter of your life faster?
If that sounds like a much better option than a long and costly battle through litigation, then the mediation process is the perfect solution for your divorce.
What is mediation?
Your first question may be, "what is mediation?" Mediation is the process of resolving a conflict through the use of a neutral third party. The mediator is not a judge and is not there to make any final rulings. They are there to facilitate healthy and constructive dialogue between two or more people who are in conflict. When the discussion between you and your soon to be former spouse becomes filled with conflict, the mediator has several different ways to help you get back on track to solve any and all problems.
Another question you may have is "how long does it take to complete a divorce through mediation?" A better question is; "how much time can I save using mediation?" A typical divorce completed through the court system can last a year or longer. During this time, you incur thousands of dollars in attorney and court fees, your level of stress and anxiety stays higher, and you feel trapped, not able to move on past your marriage.
While all cases are different, the majority of couples are able to complete mediation is as little as 6 – 8 hours. Think about that for a moment: 6 – 8 hours instead of a year or longer. The amount of money you would save, the decrease in your stress levels, and the ability to move on with your life much faster.
You may be thinking your divorce is just too difficult to use mediation. You have too much money to argue over, multiple houses, and you certainly could not mediate a divorce when children are involved right? Not true; any divorce can be mediated if you find the right mediator for your situation and you and your spouse are able to enter into a dialogue where you are looking to find resolution. Simply stated, mediation is for everyone, regardless of the circumstances of your case.
Benefits of mediation
While the benefits of mediation is a long list, I would like to focus on the top three:
- 1. Reducing Cost
- 2. Expediting the Process
- 3. Decreasing Stress and Anxiety
My mediation practice is in Alabama, so for the sake of cost, averages, etc., we will use my state for the calculations. We will examine two scenarios: one where legal counsel is involved, the other where the couple has chosen to handle the process pro se, which basically means, without an attorney. According to a recent survey, the average cost of a divorce in Alabama is $12,500.
That average balloons up to over $32,000 for couples who have a higher net worth. Out of the $12,500, nearly $10,000 is attorney's fees! Couples with a higher net worth can see their attorney's fees grow exponentially. Regardless of your net worth, divorce is expensive when handled through the normal court litigation process. Now, let's see how this same scenario stacks up to the typical cost of mediation.
Now, let's see how this same scenario stacks up to the typical cost of mediation
The average cost of a mediator in Alabama is $200 an hour. A great part of the cost of a mediator, unless another agreement is made, it is split between the parties. This means your cost will only be $100 an hour for the mediator.For legal counsel in the state of Alabama, the average cost is $350 an hour. If you take the cost of your attorney and your half of the mediator cost, you will pay an average of $450 an hour during the mediation process.
As stated previously, the mediation process takes on average 6-8 hours to complete. If we then apply simple math to this by multiplying the $450 an hour times 8 hours, the cost of your divorce is around $3,600. There are some court costs associated with divorce, no matter the process, so let's just round up to $4,000. Compare this to the typical cost of divorce and you end up saving thousands of dollars. While using an attorney is the preferred method for most people, some couples choose to complete their divorce pro se, meaning without legal counsel. I am not recommending one method over the other; this is a decision that should not be taken lightly. Remember, the mediator is a neutral third party. They do not and cannot provide legal advice. While some may be able to tell you likely outcomes based on their experience and their knowledge of certain judges, under no circumstances do they provide legal counsel.
So you have thought about it, found a mediator who has the right training, and have made the decision to handle your divorce on your own. Let's see how that impacts the cost of your divorce. In the previous example your hourly cost was $450 an hour. If you subtract the attorney fee, your cost will be an average of $100 an hour. This means, if it takes 8 hours to complete the mediation process, your cost will be $800 plus any court costs associated with divorce. This means you could possibly end up only paying $1,000 if you use mediation and choose not to use an attorney. But even if you have a complex divorce and it takes three 8-hour mediation sessions, the cost of your divorce will be around $3,000. Once again, compare this to a typical divorce through the court system and you are savings thousands of dollars. It is simple to see how the process of mediation can be a much cheaper alternative to typical litigation, so let's now compare the length of time between mediation and a typical court battle. As we know, the divorce process can take a year or longer to litigate. This means multiple visits to the courthouse, consultations with your attorney, which translates into higher costs and prolonged stress.
We have seen from the scenario above completing the divorce process through mediation can take as little as a single day. Doesn't that sound much better than a year or longer in a courtroom? I would imagine most people would even be willing to use mediation even if it took 3-6 months. And I know there are some who think divorce has to take a long time because that is just how divorces work. This could not be further from the truth. There are multiple mediators out there who specifically advertise they can help you complete your divorce in a weekend and even in a single day. Once the mediation is over, whether it is in a day or longer, the same paperwork is filed with the court and the same judge signs the document. The only difference is, after you complete your divorce through mediation, you can look back and realize you didn't waste a year or longer on the process. Mediation allows you to move on and focus on your future much sooner than traditional litigation.
If I were to tell you that you had to enter a courtroom tomorrow, against an attorney who knows the law better than you, and the final decision about your divorce is in the hands of a judge, how would you feel? Stress and anxiety? Fear? Maybe the loss of any control of the outcome? For those reasons, the final topic could quite possibly be the best reason to choose mediation over a traditional divorce.
Choosing mediation reduces your stress and anxiety in the following ways
1) You do not have to testify or speak in front of strangers in a courtroom. Anything said or agreed to in mediation remains confidential.
2) The mediation process is about reaching an agreement, not a contest to see who can win.
3) The outcome of the decision made during mediation is in your control. You can take time to weigh your options, find solutions that are outside of the box, and, if you feel as though the mediation process is not working, you are under no obligation to come to a resolution at that time.
Divorce is considered one of the most difficult experiences of a person's life. Not only due to the death of a relationship, but also because of the stress and cost associated with this process. Mediation could be the answer to help alleviate those factors. Should you, or someone you know, be going through the process of divorce, take a moment and consider mediation as an alternative to litigation.
The article is provided by Lawhorn Consulting.
Lawhorn Consulting offers mediation services throughout the state of Alabama. While mainly focusing on family law matters, the mediators at Lawhorn Consulting can help you resolve various types of conflict.
Lawhorn Consulting does not practice law, nor do they provide legal advice. This blog, or any written communication should not be taken as such.