Does divorce mediation in New Jersey really save you money?
Before I was an attorney, I was a mediator for 2 years. It was a great experience and I am a better attorney as a result of the experience. However, I am rather upset by all of the “divorce mediation” springing up everywhere as some type of alternative to divorce. In my opinion, it is not a good alternative to the divorce process and may actually make your case more expensive and time consuming.
Is it really an alternative to divorce?
There is a big public misconception that divorce has to be expensive, drawn out and in essence, a generally horrible experience. Divorce Mediation is marketed as a way to bypass all of that but of course, relies on people thinking that this misconception is true. There is no one way to get divorced. I can get people divorced in two to three months for $2000 or less in some cases. Some people spend six figures and it takes years. The timing and the cost of a divorce depends upon you and your spouse. Thus, it does not have to be expensive.
Besides the cost aspect, divorce mediation also assumes that there are no other alternatives to a divorce trial. However, a divorce trial is very rare. Almost every case settles. One of the reasons most cases settle (besides lack of time for court to try the cases) is that there are a number of mediations and other ADR processes built in to the divorce process. In addition, your attorney is always free to set up mediation sessions with the other side with or without the assistance of an actual mediator. When it is without a mediator, we refer to this as a four-way conference. During the four-way, both sides along with their respective attorneys discuss all of the issues in an attempt to settle all or just part of the issues in the case.
Regardless of how and when the case settles, your attorney will be in a position to quickly put through the settlement. When you go through mediation and you have settled the cases, you still have to start the divorce case from the beginning. This could delay the case.
Who will fight for you?
A mediator cannot represent you or your spouse. Thus, you may lose out on key legal advice that could cost you for many years. For example, what if there is two ways to do something? One way will cost you more money, the other will not. What if the mediator thinks it is better for your spouse to go the way that costs you more money even if does not mean less money for them? What if you want to draw up an iron clad agreement that will be in your favor? Who is looking out for you? Don’t think that your spouse’s attorney will pick up on all of these little issues. I’ve seen some very experienced attorneys leave money on the table by not asking for certain things. With a mediator, he/she may not raise these issues if they are in your favor or they may raise them for the benefit of your spouse.
Can an attorney speed up your divorce?
While there is no one way to mediate a case, I’ve seen some mediations that took about 10 to 12 different mediation sessions. However, when I have represented clients and I have been in some type of mediation, it rarely takes more than one session which generally lasts one to three hours. Why? Attorneys know how to cut through the BS. During the initial consultation with my clients, I am already getting an idea for how the client wants to settle the case and how I think the case should settle. I explain my thinking to my clients from the start so they are prepared to move forward. As a result, the sessions go much quicker. With a mediation, I am sure the mediator has to discuss every possible option on each issue which can take some time.
The best of both worlds
The purpose of this blog is to demonstrate that there are attorneys out there that combine the best of both worlds. You can get an attorney that will fight for you without breaking the bank. In addition, for the same price as a mediation, hiring the right attorney can get you divorced faster and with a better settlement agreement that is drawn up correctly. If the mediation fails, the right attorney can transition right into litigation mode to fight for you. No mediator can do that. So, think twice before you opt for an alleged “divorce alternative” as it may not really be much of an alternative at all.