Our guest post is from Cheryl and Joe Dillon from Equitable Mediation Services. Their firm practices in the areas of divorce mediation and works with clients in Illinois, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
As a divorce mediator, I witness first-hand the sadness, stress and anxiety that divorce inflicts upon the people involved.
But while the decision to get a divorce is certainly a gut-wrenching one filled with many sleepless nights, deciding how you’re going to get that divorce can sometimes be even harder. And while I am always a proponent of using mediation to peacefully resolve the issues surrounding your divorce sometimes it’s just not appropriate.
So how do you know if mediation can work for you or if you need to go and get a lawyer? Here are four examples of when using mediation is appropriate and four reasons when using a lawyer might be a better option.
Four Situations in Which Mediation is Appropriate
Situation One – You Both Agree to Put Your Children First – Parties who can successfully mediate understand that putting their children’s needs first is paramount to any divorce agreement. They understand that they will continue to have a relationship long after the marriage has ended and it will change from being spouses to co-parents. If you both want to preserve your relationship as co-parents long after the divorce is over, mediation will work for you.
Situation Two – You Don’t Want To Bankrupt Each Other – Getting a litigated divorce is expensive; costing as much as $200,000. Mediation preserves resources by teaching the parties how to do much of the work themselves and engage in cooperative negotiations this saving them money. Money that can be better used to restart their lives or put their children through college.
Situation Three – You Can Communicate Like Adults – Just because communication has gotten off track, it doesn’t mean you have to act like children or spend your time blaming each other for what went wrong. If you can get along reasonably well and at least try and work through things together, mediation is a good option.
Situation Four – You’d Like to Move on with Your Lives – With mediation taking two to three months and litigation taking two to three years, couples who recognize that divorce is about moving on with their lives can mediate. If you both believe that life is better viewed through the windshield, not the rear view mirror, mediation can work for you
Four Situation in Which Using Lawyers Is Necessary
Reason One – You Or Your Spouse Needs an Advocate – in mediation the parties need to be able to process information, analyze options and come to conclusions on complex subjects such as alimony and child support. If you or your spouse has an addiction problem or a cognitive condition which makes decision making difficult, having an attorney as an advocate can give you or them the representation they need.
Reason Two – When Safety or Domestic Violence Is an Issue – In situations where there is a restraining order or when one party is afraid of the other, hiring a lawyer is your only option. Because of the toll domestic violence can take on a person’s self-confidence and ability to stand up for themselves, having an advocate is necessary to make sure that party can express their needs and wants and get what they’re entitled to.
Reason Three – You’re Afraid Your Spouse Is Hiding Assets –There are plenty of times I’ve seen hidden bank accounts, shell corporations and even an out of wedlock child pop up in a divorce case. At this point, mediation is no longer an option as the trust has broken down and the legal system is needed to compel the withholding party to be completely forthright about these hidden assets or out of wedlock children.
Reason Four – One You Wants To Mediate While The Other One Doesn’t – Both parties need to be comfortable and willing to come to mediation and work through their differences. If one party is and one party isn’t, then one of you will be forced to get an attorney and file to get the process started. That’s when hiring a lawyer and litigating becomes your only option.
But At The End Of The Day…
Remember – the decision how you proceed is entirely up to you and your spouse so whenever possible choose mediation. By considering each of the four reasons above for both mediation and litigation, you can make the decision that’s best for you in your specific situation.