The old joke goes like this: “Why does divorce cost so much?” Answer: “Because it’s worth it.” Divorce doesn’t have to cost so much, however, if both spouses are willing to mediate. In fact, mediation costs are on average two-thirds less than the cost of litigating. If mediation is successful, neither spouse will ever see the inside of a courtroom. Since each family law judge in Los Angeles County has an average of 816 cases assigned to his or her courtroom at any given time, this often results in “hurry up and wait.” Even relatively simple divorces can drag out for years in a system burdened with too few courtrooms, judges and clerks.
Choosing an experienced family law attorney who is also a trained mediator comes first. As a consumer of legal services, you should inquire about the attorney’s education and training as a family law mediator. An experienced mediator will not become judgmental toward the behavior or statements of one party or both. Most importantly, an experienced mediator will not form premature opinions or solutions, but instead will assist the parties to form their own agreement.
A skilled family law attorney /mediator can help craft a settlement that is fair and meets the financial and emotional needs of both spouses and their children. Your mediator should also recommend that any agreement reached in mediation be reviewed by an independent attorney of each spouse’s choice.
Remember: In mediation, you control the outcome, not a judge or court appointed experts, who may know little or nothing about your family history and may view you as just another case in the system. Furthermore, studies have shown that couples who work with a mediator are more likely to stick to their agreement than couples who have adversarial divorces.