The term “happy divorce” seems like an oxymoron, and maybe it is. After all, the dissolution of a marriage is really not a happy occasion for most people. But that said, some divorces are happier than others, and they are usually the ones that are settled without a long, drawn out court battle.
I have been a divorce mediator for many years now, but one of the main reasons I decided to go into this field is because of what mediation did for me. I was able to use mediation successfully in my own divorce, which allowed me to part ways with my ex-husband on good terms and move forward with my life. Ever since then, I have been passionate about helping other couples who are in the same situation I was in.
The early part of the New Year is always a very popular time to get divorced. Some couples are ready to separate long before the holidays, but they tough it out so their kids can have one last holiday celebration together. If you are in this situation, I urge you to consider using mediation to settle your divorce.
Private Divorce Mediation vs. Traditional Litigation
When we talk about “private mediation”, we are talking about a process that is different from court-ordered mediation. With private mediation, the couple hires their own neutral, third-party mediator to help them work out the terms and conditions of their divorce. This process offers several advantages over traditional divorce litigation:
- Lower Cost: Private mediation can often be completed at a fraction of the cost of litigating the divorce.
- Faster Processing: Your divorce can be settled usually within just a handful of sessions, after which the settlement is presented to the court for approval. This process can be completed much faster than going to court.
- Cooperative Environment: Private mediation is conducted in a cooperative rather than combative environment. The mediator guides the discussion toward win-win resolutions that both participants can be satisfied with.
- More Control by Participants: When you go in front of a court, the judge has the final say over any disputed matters. With mediation, no settlement can become legally binding unless both participants agree to it. This gives you more control over the process, allowing you and your spouse to think creatively and come up with solutions that better fit your specific needs and concerns.
- Child-Friendly: The cooperative environment in which mediation is conducted helps you and your spouse maintain a cordial relationship, which is especially important if you have children.
- Privacy Protected: Unlike divorce litigation, mediation sessions are kept private and will never become part of the public court record. This allows participants to speak more freely without fear that what they say will be used against them later on.
Reasons Couples Reject Private Mediation
It is easy to understand the financial benefits of private divorce mediation, but people often have other misconceptions regarding the process that make them apprehensive about choosing this option. Perhaps the biggest stumbling block is that spouses do not believe they will receive the legal advice they need and/or have their legal rights protected during the mediation process. This could not be further from the truth.
Divorce mediation participants are always free to retain legal representation, and they can consult their attorney throughout the process. In addition, any settlement reached through mediation has to be reviewed by the court before it becomes legally binding. As an aside, judges tend to prefer a mediated settlement where all of the important issues are worked out rather than having the spouses fight it out in court.
Speaking of which, some people look forward to their “day in court” as their time to finally settle the grievances that they have with their spouse. This is another reason they might shy away from mediation.
The truth is that court battles rarely deliver the emotional satisfaction that spouses are looking for. Instead, each side will argue their cases, which means a case will be made against both spouses. This usually leads to more conflict, and the result is often resentment and hard feelings that can last for several years.
Mediation for the Sake of the Children
Court battles rarely solve anything substantial, but even worse, they often leave more relational damage in their wake. Litigation that results in ongoing conflict after the divorce is over can be especially hard on children who are often caught in the middle. This type of situation can cause more depression, anxiety, and anger among children as they tend to emulate the behavior of the parents.
Divorce is difficult for children under any circumstance, but in reality, it’s not so much the separation or divorce that hurts them as much as it is the resulting conflict. Children have a much easier time adjusting to a divorce if their parents are civil to each other and maintain a cordial relationship. Above all else, this may be the best reason for divorcing couples to consider private mediation.