One way for couples to keep their power throughout the divorce process is to work together to resolve their issues through divorce mediation. When divorcing couples hire attorneys and step into the Courthouse to have the Judge rule on their issues, they have successfully handed over the decision making authority of their divorce to a complete stranger in a black robe. The Court does not have that power until it is handed over by one or both spouses. So why would anyone voluntarily surrender this control unless it was a last resort?
Good question. One answer is that divorcing couples often don’t realize all of their options, and continue to cede their decision making power to the Court. The traditional way to get divorced is to lawyer up and use the Courts. This is what people have come to know. Each spouse can make their arguments to the Judge who is counted on to make the most fair decision for the family. Some drawbacks to this process are that the Judge has a very limited time to ascertain the facts and to make the decisions, the Judge has limited options, the Judge does not always get it right, the Courts are backlogged and these decisions don’t get made for months and even years, and this person being asked to make the decisions is not the person that will ultimately have to live with these decisions.
It sort of makes sense. To prevent one spouse from unfairly taking advantage of the other spouse we bring in a neutral person to hear from both sides and render a decision. On the other hand, my experience has been that most couples are perfectly capable of making these important decisions themselves once they understand their rights, responsibilities and options.
Divorce Mediation is all about having the couple maintain control. The mediator’s role is to empower the couple to successfully make the important decisions in their divorce by first educating them on the law and the issues, working with them to assure that they have exchanged all pertinent information, helping them explore their options and to effectively communicate, then write up their agreement to be signed off on by the Judge. The mediator can provide the couple with a fairly clear picture of what the Judge might do in their situation so they can make these decisions by the book, or the couple can consider other creative options that make sense for them but which are not options that the Judge would have at their disposal. With the mediator’s assistance, the couple can fashion a child sharing schedule that meets the needs of the children and supports their relationship with both parents, that addresses the finances of the family and meets the needs of both households, and that fairly divides up what was accumulated during the marriage. These issues can be addressed by the couple in days and weeks, not months and years. These decisions are made by the two people best positioned to make them, and who are most impacted by the outcome, the couple themselves.
I have watched hundreds of couples successfully tackle their own divorce. I believe most couples are capable of doing so if they become aware of the option and give it a chance. Every couple can rest assured that if they cannot find a reasonable solution on their own, the option to hand over all power to the Judge remains. The new normal for divorce should be divorce mediation. The Courts should be the last resort for those rare couples who decide they can’t make these important decisions themselves.