"Winning" In Divorce: Divorce Lawyer or Mediator?
What is a "win" in divorce? Getting the majority of assets? Avoiding alimony and minimizing child support? Crushing your opponent, i.e., the man or woman you once cherished? Many lawyers will be delighted to fight your war for years to come, rather inefficiently, and all at an outrageous hourly rate. And is this really a "win?"
Consider instead that winning in divorce means taking control of the process to create the best possible outcomes. It means having the integrity, dignity, and the grit to execute this process so that you will feel good about the choices you've made for you and your family—now, a year from now, and well into the future.
Taking control of your divorce isn't easy when you feel quite overwhelmed and wondering what to do next. Divorce is not for wimps, not if you want to come out the other end with your emotional and financial health intact. In divorce, there is much preparation to do and many choices to make. The path you take will impact you, your spouse, and your children for many years to come.
One of the most important choices you have to make is how you are going to process your divorce. Legally, all divorces start with a complaint or petition and end in a divorce decree. However, there are numerous ways to get from point A to point B. Many will search for the "best" divorce attorney and begin with a phone call to a lawyer. If you do this, you are setting yourself on a long, emotionally difficult, and very expensive path to a divorce decree. If you involve the courts in your divorce you are giving up privacy and control on critical decisions around your assets, your income, and how your children will be raised.
There are alternatives to involving lawyers and courts! If you have shared assets or children, a DIY divorce is not a wise choice—you only get one chance to get this right. Before you call a lawyer, consult with a qualified divorce mediator.
Mediation is the best first choice for your divorce because it is the least expensive, fastest, and least divisive of processes for divorce. The average cost of fully mediated and legally-processed divorce is under $3,000 at Falmouth Mediation. Involve an attorney each for you and your spouse and even with a quickly negotiated settlement between them you will spend in excess of $10,000 and many will ultimately cost tens of thousands or more.
You might be thinking "wait, don't I need a lawyer to mediate my divorce?" The answer is emphatically "no" and for a number of reasons, a lawyer may not be your best choice for a divorce mediator. Look for a mediator who has the knowledge, skills, and experience to guide you and your spouse to a financially optimized settlement agreement and help you develop a parenting plan that preserves the integrity of your family.
When is a mediation not a good choice? If in the marriage there is physical or ongoing emotional abuse, if one of you is not willing to negotiate to a settlement and has a "my way or the highway" attitude, or if either spouse is not capable of expressing needs in a way that will be heard and respected by the other, mediation is not likely to result in a successful outcome. Having said that, you may still want to mediate aspects of your divorce while retaining legal counsel as support. And when you do involve attorneys in your divorce, be sure to hire those who are settlement-oriented but can still fight for you in court if absolutely necessary.