Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) – A More Peaceful Path to Dissolution

When people think of dissolution, they typically think of two attorneys battling head-to-head on behalf of their clients, and that is frequently the case. This, in turn, typically causes significant stress for the would-be ex-spouses. It is a frightening prospect to essentially have your entire life placed on trial in an effort to determine: (1) who should have custody over your children, or (2) how assets should be distributed.

Not all dissolutions need to be combative. In fact, there are a number of less confrontational options that are beneficial to both parties. Once such option is known as “mediation.” Mediation utilizes the services of a disinterested third party, known as a mediator, to facilitate a mutually agreeable result on key contested issues in a dissolution.

  1. What Does A Mediator Do?

A key distinction between a trial and a mediation is that a mediator is not a judge; they do not make decisions or rulings. The mediators main function is to aid the parties in finding a middle ground on key issues, frequently highlighting portions of the issue that both parties appear to agree on. Once the parties know what issues they actually agree on, it is significantly easier to come to an agreement on the portions they disagree on.

A mediation is different from arbitration and trial in several key ways. Both an arbitration and a trial are adversarial in nature, and parties frequently introduce evidence mostly for the purpose of dragging one spouse’s name through the mud. In trial and arbitration, the arbitrator or judge does not, and typically cannot, meet with each party individually to get an understanding of their unique circumstances. Judges and arbitrators are simply too busy to meet with every person who enters their Courtroom and get to know them.

In contrast, a mediation is not adversarial; mud-slinging is ineffective since the goal is to reach an agreement. A mediator also has the freedom to hand-craft unique agreements, that are different from what a judge could create, taking into account the parties’ individual situations.

Finally, a mediator is very different from an attorney. Attorney’s have one job, and that job is to advocate for their client in an effort to obtain the best outcome for their client. An attorney does not, and should not, advocate for the other spouse, even if it may result in a resolution to the issues. A mediator however, has the sole function of aiding both spouses in reaching an agreement that identifies the major issues for each party and finds a reasonable compromise. A mediator is focused on the individuals’ best interest, whereas a trial is focused on the best outcome for one party or the other.

  1. What Are the Benefits of Mediation?

There are many advantages to utilizing mediation of arbitration or trial when seeking a dissolution. The benefits include significantly less harm to the children of the marriage, a substantially quicker resolution to the dissolution, and a final bill that falls far below the cost of hiring attorneys to engage in a long-drawn-out litigation.

  1. Children Benefit from Mediation

Engaging in mediation has significant benefits for the children of the parties seeking dissolution through mediation. As mentioned above, a dissolution in Court is a high-conflict ordeal, in which both parties seek to undermine the character of the other party in an effort to obtain the best outcome for themselves. Naturally, this creates significant hostilities between the parents, which the children will be forced to witness.

Mediation is usually far less stressful than going through the Court, which typically results in a more cordial and amicable relationship between the separating spouses. As such, children benefit from observing their parents talk, compromise, and ultimately agreeing on major issues. This is in stark contrast to having children watch their parents engage in a year long, raging fight, over things children generally do not understand.

Further, by learning to cooperate and talk through high-tension situations, parents are more likely to obtain joint-custody determinations when pursuing their dissolution through mediation.

  1. Mediations Typically Reach Resolution Much Faster Than Trial

In fact, litigation generally carries on for over a year before the case even goes to trial. Mediation can speed the litigation process up and provide a quick resolution. The parties are free to engage in mediation at any time, without requiring the Court to schedule it, which generally provides more flexibility for both parties.

  1. Mediation is Cost-Effective

Reaching a resolution to a dispute through litigation can be incredibly expensive to both parties. First, the parties are required to retain attorneys, who typically have a substantial hourly rate; these hourly costs can become overwhelming within weeks. This is true even with cases that settle fairly quickly, since settlements usually occur after “discovery” has been conducted – something that requires a substantial amount of time from the attorney (interrogatories, depositions, document review, etc.,). The costs increase even more quickly where the case is a complicated one, as more discovery will need to be done, more conversation with opposing counsel with have to occur, and a substantial number of motions will likely be filed.

Mediation offers the lowest-cost option for resolving disputes that would have cost substantially more if pursued through litigation. A primary reason for this, as mentioned above, is that mediation is typically resolved far more quickly than arbitration or litigation, this is true even when attorneys are involved.

  1. Conclusion

When seeking a dissolution, most people mistakenly believe that the only way to properly vindicate their rights is to retain a high-powered attorney and go to battle with their ex-spouse. This route creates even more conflict, which negatively impacts children and drives the cost of resolution through the roof. Further, litigation will likely drag on for years.

If you are considering dissolution, contact a skilled attorney who has conducted mediations before, and the benefits are endless. First, children will actually be befitted from observing how conflicts can be resolved peacefully. Second, the ordeal will end far more quickly. Finally, the costs of mediation are significantly less than a full-blown trial. Contact us today for a consultation at (209) 910-9865.