“The thing that’s wrong with the divorce system is that we try to cram it into the framework of everything else that happens in court, like automobile accidents and murders. …We’ve decided that to get to the truth, we line little armies up on opposite sides of the court and try to convince the judge that this army or that army is right. That may work well in a murder trial. It doesn’t work at all with a divorce.” – Judge Roderic Duncan
According to statistics, approximately 95% of all divorces settle out of court before going to trial, and many state courts actually require mediation before hearing a case. Given this, it is interesting that so many people hire big gun attorneys who start preparing a case for a trial that will never happen.
So why does it happen?
I believe the biggest motivator is fear. Divorce is highly emotional, and when there is a perceived power imbalance, a large discrepancy in earning potential, or a fear about the welfare of children, hiring a professional to advocate seems like the best choice. And when an attorney is the only divorce professional known, then hiring the biggest and the best – that attorney you’ve heard can win you a large settlement – seems logical. Unfortunately, letting your fear drive this decision could cost you greatly.
According to an article in Forbes, the average cost of legal fees in divorce is $15,000- $30,000.
One way to cut down on these expenses is to use a mediator. A mediator is trained to do divorce, and they are trained to do it in a different way than attorneys (although future attorneys are now taking mediation classes in law school). Mediators are neutral third parties trained to facilitate conversations and manage conflict in a way that works for both parties. Mediators can assist you in gathering paperwork and translate it into workable pieces of information. And if you need expert advice in any area, they can guide you to it. It is a mediator’s job to control the process and ensure that both parties are capable of making informed decisions about their future.
It’s pretty amazing how connection through conflict can lead to solutions that no one could ever imagined. Even if you and your spouse cannot agree on everything, mediation can isolate the areas of conflict and help you resolve all of the other issues. This alone can be a huge savings.
If you want to maximize your settlement both financially and emotionally, try mediation, or you may end up paying college tuition for your lawyer’s children rather than your own.
Note: When I speak of mediation, I speak from the platform of Transformative Mediation as a mediator who does not practice law.
Deborah Denson is a Mediator and Conflict Coach in Nashville, TN. She shares her personal journey learning to manage conflict and life in general on her blog, where she combines original art and wit into a daily dose of insight and humor for readers.