Divorce Mediation: Because No One Wins in Divorce.
In this explosive Marriage Story fight scene, after spewing nonsensical poison for 5 minutes, Charlie punches a wall screaming, “You’re Fucking Insane! And You’re Fucking Winning!”
To which Nicole responds, “Are you kidding me? I wanted to be married. I’VE ALREADY LOST.”
Family law is the area of law that governs the issues arising from the end of relationships.
Divorce means it’s over. You’ve both lost the love and trust that was once there. There is no sugarcoating divorce: It sucks, and there are no winners. I hear these phrases a lot in my practice: “It’s not fair, it’s not my fault!” “Why does he get half of the house?” “Why should I share the children when she’s the one who cheated on me?” “What do I get out of this divorce?” “She can leave if she wants, I don’t care, but why must I give her half the equity of the house? I didn’t choose to end this relationship, she did.”
There are so many misconceptions about what happens in divorce, and everybody feels like they need a mean lawyer to protect them. (Don’t! Resist the urge to hire a pitbull lawyer, as they will make things worse.) Unfortunately for divorce lawyers, family law is only 1% law, and 99% emotion. Lawyers who get sucked into the emotional toxicity suffer caregiver’s fatigue and burn out. It doesn’t make sense that either one would get 100% of everything: houses, custody, whatever. Whatever you started with, you always end up with less. Divorce means you’ve already lost, yet everyone is hell bent on “winning” to make their hearts hurt less. Every one wants to tell their story, so people side with them. Truth is, there are always three sides to every divorce story.
A scene from the Sopranos sums up family court.
Her: “I just want what I am entitled to.”
Him: “You’re entitled to shit!”
Involuntary Separations are Intrinsically Unfair
Divorce is intrinsically unfair because the family unit is broken, and one or both of you don’t want or deserve this. It breaks my heart that my clients are going through involuntary separations. Promises are broken, marriages are ending, families are fractured, and all you get is half? Half time with the kids, half the house, half of all debts. HALF!? It is completely unfair.
If your marriage is ending, the first time I urge you to do is to seek out a therapist, who is your emotional support system. Talk out your fears and anger. You get one day to be a victim, but then you must move on.
After some time has passed, you and your spouse only need to agree on ONE thing to move forward – and that is the decision to mediate. It doesn’t matter that you are on opposites ends of what you want with the kids, the assets, the debts, or support. You just need to agree to mediate.
Focus on Restructuring, Not Winning
Nobody wins in divorce. Instead of focusing on how to destroy your spouse (sprung from self-victimization), your main focus should be how to get through this tough period. You will need to figure out new schedules and holidays. Know that money will be tight on both of you, as you will now have two households (double the expense, on half the assets). Although it’s counterintuitive, you should be working together to get through this divorce, not depleting your limited assets by paying lawyers.
Divorce mediation: Because No One Wins In Divorce.
Agree to a mediator. One you have agreed, here are some important points:
1. Understand the mediator’s role.
We are not your lawyer, or your therapist. While legal and emotional issues commonly arise in the mediation sessions, as a mediator, my job is to remain neutral and use my knowledge and expertise from 20 years of being a family lawyer to help facilitate an agreement on some, or all issues.
2. You may not settle everything in one session, or ever.
Some people reject mediation because they are too angry, and cannot imagine being in a room with the other person. However, if the couple is arguing over the parenting time of their children, the Judge will not see you unless you have previously seen a court-appointed mediator and tried to resolve issues on your own. By law, you MUST try and mediate. The mediator may not be able to resolve all of your issues in that one session, but I guarantee, the mediator will be able to reach a few key agreements that will make it easier for you to reach a global settlement. Couples who cannot communicate alone benefit greatly from the presence of a neutral mediator, who is not a biased attorney “hired gun” ready to kill the other side at all costs to win.
3. You can still hire a lawyer if you are in mediation, and it will be cheaper.
It’s called a “consulting attorney”. In the collaborative divorce community, there are many skilled lawyers whose goal is NOT to deplete your assets in their quest to “win” your divorce. If you need a lawyer for a few hours while you’re in mediation, whether it be on certain issues, or to see if the agreement is “fair”, you have the opportunity to hire a consulting attorney, who will look over the documents and advise you in a limited scope capacity (per hour, with little to no retainer), for much less cost than a traditional representational attorney (whose retainer starts at $10,000, sometimes $25,000!).
Nobody Wins in Divorce
Finally, remember, litigation is taking someone to court so the Judge can order them to do or not do something. Litigation lawyers are HIRED to “win in court”. In a divorce, there is no winning. It’s a no-fault state, and courts are not in the business of revenge. No one cares who cheated or who is cheating or who is a deadbeat or a bad mom. There is no “winning” in divorce. So before you write a $10,000 to a lawyer to “win”, why don’t you try giving mediation a chance? It starts with you and your spouse agreeing on one thing: that you will mediate. Here are some tips if your spouse won’t agree to mediation.
Divorce mediation: Because No One Wins in Divorce.