by Roseann Vanella~
Of course the answer is YES!!!
Whenever I mention that I am a Professional Family Mediator and part of my job is helping couples to divorce, I get an endless assortment of reactions. Nose scrunches, eye rolls, looks of disgust and then the infamous “Oh my god, that has to be a terrible job”! The transition of divorce is very difficult for couples and their families but it doesn’t have to be a horrible and gut wrenching experience.
Many people will stay in bad, unhealthy, sometimes even abusive marriages because the thought of enduring the dreaded battle of divorce is perceived to be less painful than going through the process to end it. We have all seen the movie “The War of the Roses”, this is most likely what comes to mind. Other people will shy away from it because they are too intimidated to embark on the journey worrying if their spouses attorney will be like something out of Gladiator where there are no rules of engagement and the last one standing wins.
Divorce doesn’t have to be intimidating. Intimidation comes from insecurity or aggression and often is centered around finances where one spouse has held the keys to the kingdom as far as control and knowledge of the couples financial affairs.
The entire premise behind Mediation is that couples are coming together in a neutral environment with a neutral third party facilitator ( The Mediator) to assist them in coming to agreement on the terms of their divorce. Information is disclosed by all parties so everyone is on an equal playing field thus eliminating that feeling of intimidation. Instead of each person hiring an attorney to “represent” them, they are deciding to communicate directly with one another. The Mediator is in charge of the process and keeping emotions in check but the couple and only the couple, is in charge of making all of the decisions. The Mediator will guide them through all of the areas that are required in a Divorce.
The Parenting Plan- If children are involved, this is a document that covers many issues like Parenting time, Physical Custody, Legal Custody, Holiday Schedules and is customized to each families unique needs
Child Support- If children are involved
Equitable Distribution-Dividing all of the assets, including homes, investments, cars, valuable art and anything else the couple has acquired.
Spousal Support-The old “Alimony”.
Some clients retain attorneys but instead of utilizing their services for representation, they look to them for legal advice, much of the same as one would look to an accountant for advice on how spousal support would impact their taxes or any other tax question.
After the mediation is complete, the Mediator prepares what is called a Memorandum of Understanding, which outlines the entire terms of the divorce and the Parenting Plan. That document can then be brought to an attorney for either review, if desired, or in order to have the divorce filed and finalized with the courts. Many Mediators establish relationships with Family Law Attorneys who can easily and cost effectively take care of the process.
Much of the public has this notion that divorcing couples need to be “best friends” in order to mediate. This could not be further from the truth. In actuality I have never seen a divorcing couple come in as best friends, but instead they are couples that understand the value in direct communication, making their own decisions, not wanting to spend their retirement on paying for a divorce and most importantly, want to spare their family from adversarial, damaging, behavior that often occurs when litigating.