If you are getting divorced in the 21st century, why would you rely on 20th century thinking? Televisions shows of the last century, such as “L.A. Law,” presented a picture of litigation that was both dramatic and appealing. An entire generation of audiences became convinced that the legal process what just like television—your case could be neatly wrapped up in a one hour episode. Sadly, the truth is far different, especially when parties decided to end their marriage through litigation. The “average” litigated divorce in Los Angeles County takes about 2 years and will cost at least $50,000.00, probably more. If you have that kind of money and want to spend it, go ahead. After all, it is your money. However, I submit that you are giving in to 20th century thinking.
Divorce mediation should be your first step in the 21st century. A trained and experienced family law mediator can make your divorce less emotionally painful and certainly much less expensive than litigation. There is nothing wrong about saving money. Ask yourself this question: Do you want to spend tens of thousands of dollars on attorneys and expert witnesses, such as custody evaluators and forensic accountants, or would you rather spend that money on yourself and/or your children’s futures, such as their college education? Most middle and upper middle class families do not have the money for both, and at the end of a long and expensive litigated divorce they are not only emotionally spent, they are also financially wrecked.
Of course, not every case is suitable for mediation. A marriage which includes a history of domestic violence or recent domestic violence, drug and/or alcohol abuse and psychological disorders are problematic for mediation at best. Fortunately, these types of cases are the distinct minority. The overwhelming number of divorces involve people who simply do not get along anymore and want out. We even have a word for this in California: “Irreconcilable Differences,” which underscores our State’s no-fault divorce law.
Couples in mediation may be angry and/or disappointed, but these emotions are not insurmountable obstacles to reaching a mediated agreement. When appropriate and needed, I will suggest the parties include counseling as part of the mediation process. The counselor will assist the mediator in acting as a third party neutral to help facility an agreement, usually in issues regarding custody and parenting.
Like it or not, we are living in the 21st century. Mediation should be the first choice of divorcing couples in this new century, and 20th century thinking about divorce should be left in the past, where it belongs.