Are you opting to forgo the courtroom and finalize a more amicable divorce on your own? Good for you!
Unless there is no way for you and your spouse to agree on major divorce tenets, such as spousal/child support, visitation, or the distribution of joint assets, it is always better to get divorced using a mediator or by coming together and collaborating.
Divorce Mediation vs Collaborative Divorce
Divorce mediation or collaboration are options you can use if you want to avoid courtroom drama and excessive legal payments and fees. Currently, the average cost of a divorce settled in the courtroom is $17,500, and many divorces cost far more than that. The ability to move forward with your divorce – and your life – without the added stress, time, and expenses is a bonus of both mediated and collaborative divorces.
Mediation is an increasingly popular way for couples to settle family law disputes without the emotional and energetic drain of the courtroom. Mediators are neutral parties; they do not take sides. Instead, they work with both parties as a neutral educator and facilitator, informing them about common court practices and rulings and helping them to determine the wisest and fair means of settling every aspect of their divorce and/or child custody disputes.
Most mediators are paid by the hour for their consulting services. Another benefit, besides navigating a divorce as affordably and conflict-free as possible is that mediators take care of all of the legal paperwork and can file it for you, to ensure nothing is kicked back by the courts. The average divorce by mediation runs around $7,000 or less. Some couples only require a session or two to make their final decisions, which means they get divorced for $1000 or less.
All of the legal divorce paperwork required by the California family law courts are available for you to fill out and complete online. All county court systems also offer appointment- and walk-in free support services to review the documentation for you or answer general questions about the process.
This means you and your spouse can collaboratively work through the paperwork and create your own divorce terms without any legal assistance. That said unless you have no children and relatively few (if any) assets, I rarely recommend collaborative divorce unless your situation is very friendly.
Which is Best For Your Divorce?
The number of decisions you’ll make determines whether or not a meditative approach is better than a collaborative one. Decisions lead to complications, especially where emotions are involved, and a mediator is well-skilled in facilitating difficult discussions while providing insight as to the court’s most likely decision based on statistics.
On the flip side, if you’ve only been married a few years, have no property to speak of, and there are no children in the mix, a collaborative divorce may be just the thing to quickly move through the paperwork and file it with the court. It may still be worth paying a paralegal or mediator to review the final documents to make sure they’re filled out accurately. Even the smallest of paperwork errors leads to the courts kicking the documents back for you to correct and refile, which gets cumbersome.
I recommend using a mediator when there are more complicated things to work out.
NOTE: If there are children involved, mediation is the way to go. Your children deserve to have the most legally accurate and smooth experience possible. Your decision now to hedge one way or the other to “keep the peace” can backfire when both parties move on and you all embark on the new path. Mediators prioritize the children’s health and wellbeing throughout the divorce so you can make decisions that are in their best interest at all times.
If any of the following apply to you, investing in a mediator can save you exponentially throughout the divorce process and afterward:
- Spousal support (or not)
- Child support
- Child custody/visitation
- Decisions about who’s keeping the house and what that looks like
- Dividing assets outside of California’s 50/50 community property laws
Sometimes old patterns rear up even in the most well-meaning of people. I’ve seen clients who were willing to sign off on a fair amount of their entitled assets “just to be done with it and move forward.” While this may seem ideal in a collaborative divorce model, those decisions can come back to haunt you.
Should your ex-spouse decide things were unfair or his/her story changes later on and it turns out they felt pressured at the time or were too distressed to make sound decisions, you could wind up in a divorce court to iron things out with a judge.
Benefits of Using a Mediator
There are multiple benefits to using a mediator for your divorce, including:
- The process is smoother, less fraught with fights or stress, and almost always healthier for children and the larger family dynamic.
- Now you have a known ally who you can hire again and again over the years to provide sound legal advice in case you need to come back to the table to modify child custody or support issues.
- You have the opportunity to work methodically through all of the same questions a divorce lawyer would, but at the same time in mediated settings so it’s faster and more affordable.
- Gain insight into whether a judge is likely or not to support your stance, vs. your spouse’s, to make fair decisions across the board.
Would you like to work with a Bay Area divorce mediator with a proven track record for helping couples move through their divorces with as much compassion, gentleness, and respect as possible? Schedule a consultation with the Law Offices of Gerard A. Falzone.