Why mediate family law issues?
1. Cost. This is a given and the one that most people think about. Litigation is extremely expensive and the average divorce costs $20,000 per person. That’s $40,000 that is no longer available to a family already strapped financially by slipping assets and adding an additional household to pay for. The average cost to mediate a divorce is $2500. The initial payouts are just part of the equation though. Many couples continue to return to court after a divorce to settle issues like enforcement and modifications, which brings me to my next point.
2. Relationship. If you have children, there is no such thing as a clean break. You and your partner will continue to be co-parents, and therefore, you will need some sort of relationship. Litigation pits two sides against one another in an adversarial relationship. Judges decide who wins and who loses. In families, everyone loses; each parent and your children will suffer the ramifications of litigation. In litigation, it is an attorney’s job to present you in the best possible light and also place the opposing party in the worst possible light. The result, as you can imagine, is that a family that is splitting up becomes even more broken.
3. Constraints. In a traditional family, you make up your own rules. You are not bound to parent or co-habitate in accordance with statutes or a judges ruling. Why, then, should co-parents who don’t live together be constrained to work within the statutory framework? In mediation, you can come up with any agreement that works for your family. Each family is unique and so should their agreement moving forward.
4. Confidentiality. A court case is open to the public and a record of all of the proceedings is then available. Many families would prefer not to have all of their personal and financial information readily available to the public. In mediation, all statements within the mediation remain confidential and cannot be used in court, in the event litigation takes place afterwards.
After spending five days in a 40 hour mediation training by the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, I can truly tell you that my perspective on family law has shifted. The biggest factor for me is that families splitting up are restructuring, not ending. What better way to restructure then through beginning to communicate and make decisions one your own, with the help of a trained mediator?