So you’re open to reaching a fair divorce settlement with your spouse, but you don’t have confidence that the two of you (with or without your attorneys) can make lasting progress around a conference table. In that setting, emotions may run too high or your spouse may fixate on certain elements of your case that cloud and crowd out everything else.
Maybe there has been infidelity, domestic violence, abandonment or simply a failure to communicate without every interaction devolving into a shouting match. These are all-too-common elements in contested family law cases. You may need a neutral third party with authority to step in and help drag your case across the finish line.
Whether your mediator is a retired judge or family law practitioner, he or she will likely be knowledgeable and experienced in family law and skilled in the art of prognosticating what may occur in the event of trial. This advice can be invaluable and persuasive in reaching an amicable conclusion.
Here are four reasons why the mediation process might be right for you:
- Affordable: Because mediation is informal and the rules of evidence don’t apply, preparation will be less time-consuming than for a multi-day trial, which saves you money. I’ve found that bringing a case through mediation is typically 50% cheaper than seeing it through to trial, depending upon how far along your case has progressed. The day of mediation will often be an expensive one, if you are paying for your attorney and a portion of the mediator’s hourly rate, but this cost is often heavily outweighed by the prospect of a protracted divorce battle. Plus many counties in Virginia now provide a retired judge or veteran divorce attorney for a free and mandatory mediation session before trial, to siphon off cases that can be resolved in advance.
- Distance: I can’t tell you how often my clients say “I don’t even want to see his face,” or “If she has to talk to me, it will set her off.” Unlike during a settlement conference, most mediation settings involve breaking into separate offices or conference rooms, so the parties can negotiate with the mediator as an intermediary, delivering questions and offers back and forth. This keeps emotions at a reasonable level and allows for confidential and informal conversations with the mediator about your spouse’s behavior and possible litigation outcomes. If keeping your distance is a priority, it can always be arranged.
- Control: You and your spouse remain in control of the process and outcome, and are free to walk away at any time. This is in stark contrast with a trial setting, where a judge is forced to rule based upon limited information and restricted input from the parties, as limited by rules of evidence and time constraints. Mediated outcomes are more specifically tailored to the parties’ ongoing needs, especially in custody and visitation cases. Creative solutions are embraced, and mediators are talented in suggesting paths forward.
- Buy-In: Parties reaching a mediated solution are much more likely to adhere to that result and comply with resulting agreements as compared with a court-ordered outcome, which often lacks the nuance and specificity that mediators have the luxury of crafting. When both parties have reached a voluntary settlement and signed their names to it, there is a better chance of improved relations and an easing of tensions. There is no winner or loser, and no dirty laundry has been aired in open court. It’s often the beginning of a healthier chapter in your family’s life.
Livesay & Myers, P.C. has a team of experienced family lawyers with years of experience guiding clients through the mediation process. If you are facing a divorce, custody or other family law case in Northern Virginia, contact us to schedule a consultation today.