By Kathy Memel, Ph.D, MFT
“The notion that most people want black-robed judges, well dressed lawyers and fine-paneled courtrooms as the setting to resolve their disputes is not correct. People with problems, like people with pains, want relief, and they want it as quickly and inexpensively as possible” -Chief Justice Warren E. Burger
United States Supreme Court
What is Divorce Mediation?
Mediation is a cooperative rather than a combative approach to settling disputes Out of Court. Divorce mediation is an alternative to litigation and provides a way to avoid unpredictable and costly courtroom battles.
Rather than having a judge make final decisions for the parties, as mediators we help couples negotiate and decide all aspects of their Stipulated Judgment of Dissolution in a private, confidential setting, and avoid hiring adversarial lawyers. Our role as mediators is to provide direction and information without giving legal advice, and act as neutral and unbiased facilitators.
In our mediation process, we use a Therapist/Attorney team approach and help couples work through the legal, psychological and financial problems related to dissolving their marriage. As co-mediators we strive to create a balanced negotiating environment, where both parties’ interests, needs and concerns are acknowledged.
Our goal is to facilitate the creation of a mutually agreeable settlement in which both parties have participated equally, having understood all the information, elements and options involved in their decision making.
How Does it Work?
When both parties have agreed to choose mediation as an alternative to going to court, an initial session is scheduled and participants receive an orientation to mediation and we begin the process of reaching a Stipulated Judgment, which is then submitted to the court for approval. Each session is usually two hours in length. The number of sessions needed to reach an agreement depends upon the complexity of the issues, as well as the participants’ ability to work cooperatively toward a solution.
We help the participants examine their individual needs and negotiate long-term agreements regarding the division of property and debt, spousal support, child custody, parenting plans, etc. Together we evaluate present financial circumstances and provide for future financial needs.
When an agreement is reached, the parties sign the appropriate documents only when satisfied that the agreement is fair. It’s also important for each party to have their own consulting attorney review the agreement on their behalf before signing. The agreement is incorporated into a Stipulated Judgment of Dissolution which becomes binding once it is entered by the court. We prepare all the legal paperwork, making it unnecessary for the parties to appear in court.
Is Divorce Mediation Right for Your Clients?
People who are capable of seeking a healthier problem-solving approach, free of financial and emotional chaos associated with an adversarial divorce, are excellent candidates for divorce mediation, regardless of the stage of one’s divorce proceedings.
If your clients are contemplating separation, we can assist them in establishing a temporary agreement to handle any immediate concerns.
If your clients are already divorced and need assistance in resolving changes in child custody, visitation, or support, mediation can address these changes.
Clients who are caught in a destructive litigation process often can’t afford to continue the therapy they need with you, they stop treatment prematurely and make poor emotional decisions, rather than informed decisions. Mediation can often allow clients to continue their work with you, take the healing time they need, and grow from this painful experience.
Advantages of Mediation:
* Less Expensive
A mediated divorce can save your clients 80% – 90% of the costs associated with a litigated divorce.
A recent study cited by the American Bar Association found that the average cost of a Mediation was $6,600, and an “amicable” divorce settlement negotiated by counsel costs $26,830. The cost of a “friendly” divorce with one hearing was between $l8,000 and $72,000. The average “litigated” divorce costs $77,746, and if the case goes to trial the cost can exceed $l00,000+,
* Self Determination
In a litigated divorce, couples are forced to live with the decisions of a stranger, i.e., the judge. In a mediated divorce there are no surprises. The mediators do not make the final decisions, the parties do. Mediation is a win-win situation.
* Less Stress
Mediation helps transform the crises of divorce and loss, to one of recovery and growth, for adults and their children.
Parents have the opportunity to reduce conflict and create a workable parenting plan which focuses on the best interests of their children.
* Increased Stability
A cooperative problem-solving approach ensures longer lasting results and better compliance between the parties.
There are no court appearances necessary and personal information remains confidential.
Dr.Kathy Memel is a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and Divorce & Child Custody Mediator with 25+ years experience. She offers Divorce Supports Groups and her practice is in Beverly Hills. (310) 286-9201