Mediating Divorce Agreements
by Matthew McCusker January 2006
When looking at the multitude of contexts where mediation is now being utilized, divorce mediation stands out as one of the fastest growing fields. The courts have decided to place an emphasis on providing couples with the opportunity to fashion their own agreement, rather than asking judges to deduce acceptable terms.
With divorce mediation, sensitive and complex issues can be solved by the parties who are intimately affected by the decisions that will be reached. This can be especially helpful with subjects such as child support, visitation schedules, personal property dispersal, and alimony. Conventional wisdom holds that individuals who were a part of crafting their own agreement are much more likely to follow any conditions that the agreement outlines.
In addition to the personal choice benefits, divorce mediation significantly reduces the time, expense and emotional strain associated with ending a marriage. As the civil court system continues to be over-taxed by the number of cases that are filed each year, the option of mediation has become increasingly popular. Couples are able to avoid trial attorney’s fees, depositions, and many other associated costs. Comparatively speaking, the limited time and finances associated with using a divorce mediator is often far more attractive than the arduous task of proceeding towards a trial.
Divorce without Attorneys?
In the past, the idea of proceeding towards divorce without retaining counsel would have seemed a ludicrous proposition. The old adage, “He who represents himself has a fool for a lawyer.” was often cited to those who suggested the option. However, times are changing, and some couples are finding that the benefits associated with pro se (without representation) divorces are outweighing the potential costs. Couples find substantial monetary savings and sometimes avoid the severe entrenchment that can be created when both sides are ready to ‘head into battle’. However, they also sacrifice the legal advice and comfort associated with an advocate who is only concerned with representing the client to the best of his or her abilities.
Mediating Separation Agreements
The difference between separating and divorcing seems obvious, one allows for reconciliation while the other is a final solution approved by the courts. However, more couples are viewing separation and divorce as two stages of one path, rather than two distinct options. Couples will choose to mediate a separation agreement first, and then use this agreement to file for divorce if the couple cannot resolve their issues. Benefits of such an approach include: establishing separation ground rules, negotiating ‘hot button’ issues with guidance, and creating a divorce template if the couple is unable to reconcile.
Conflict and communication lapses are two of the biggest hurdles encountered by couples taking time apart. Mediating separation agreements allows for difficult issues to be discussed and resolved in a controlled environment. Experienced guidance offers couples not only solutions to current issues, but can help create agreements to avoid differences that may not yet have risen.
Matthew McCusker is the founder of ACCORD Mediation, Arbitration, and Conflict Resolution. He mediates in the Atlanta area and throughout the State of Georgia with areas of focus including: domestic, civil, criminal, and even juvenile conflict. Additionally, as a conflict resolution consultant, Matthew assists many corporations with a variety of issues and internal disputes.