If you’re contemplating divorce, there’s likely a string of thoughts going through your head regarding the details: Who gets custody? What about the business? Who will keep the dog? These questions, along with so many others, will need to be addressed, and you and your spouse will ultimately have to either decide on a suitable plan together, or fight it out in court.
If the idea of going to court seems daunting and unnecessary, mediation may be a great option for you and your ex, and should certainly be taken seriously by all divorcing spouses. Mediation is intended to help resolve disputes that often arise during divorce in order to help negotiate a divorce settlement that both parties feel comfortable with. Some counties require certain medications in a dissolution matter, such as financial mediation, or mediation if you have children. Whether you’re going voluntarily or because of a county requirement, mediation can either be as helpful or as useless as you choose to make it—with the mindset to be amicable and open to compromise, it can allow divorcing couples to not only create “custom-fit” agreements that suit their needs and desires, but it can save time and money as well.
Mediation has a long list of benefits to be considered. Below are a few:
The purpose of mediation is to open up communication between ex-spouses, which is beneficial not only from a legal standpoint, but for the entire mood of the divorce. If you and your spouse are able to overcome your anger or frustration and work together, your divorce will likely be smoother overall. In addition to this, your children will likely benefit if you and your ex are able to amicably and respectfully work together to get through the divorce process.
Mediation allows you and your spouse to be in control of the outcome, rather than the court. Together, you can create custom plans, agreements, and ideas that are unique to your needs, so long as you both agree. Once disputes go to the court due to spouses not being able to agree, these matters are no longer yours to decide—the outcome lies in the hands of a judge. For example: say you and your spouse decide that joint custody of your children is what you both want. Within mediation, you can create this agreement, whereas the Oregon court will assign sole custody to only one parent. The examples of how couples have been able to tailor personalized results are endless, and are a benefit that should be taken advantage of.
Often times, mediation is a less expensive option to multiple court hearings. The longer your divorce lasts due to an inability to come to agreements together, the higher your legal fees will be.
As you can tell, the benefits of mediation can be huge, depending on your and your spouse’s willingness to work together. If you feel mediation could be an effective tool to solve impasses, you’ll then be faced with the decision of hiring an attorney, or trying to take on the process yourself.
It’s not uncommon for couples to consider opting for mediation themselves with the thoughts and hopes that by doing so, and in turn bypassing hiring an attorney, they will save money. While you legally have every right to organize the mediation, and while there are certain circumstances when mediation without an attorney have worked, this doesn’t mean you necessarily should, as doing so can and often does result in one or both parties settling for deals that they don’t fully understand.
Below are the benefits of using an attorney and mediation in conjunction:
In the event of mediation, the divorcing couple will need to hire a mediator—an unbiased third party who can help facilitate guided conversation in a controlled manner. This process can be daunting, as different mediators are specialized in different dissolution concerns. For this reason, having legal representation who can point you in the right direction is critical. For example, Pacific Cascade Law has connections with a handful of talented and effective mediators in Oregon and Washington, whether it be retired judges or attorneys, who they can recommend and direct their client’s towards depending on their specific needs.
While a mediator will inform both spouses on what options are available to them, they cannot give legal advice. That’s huge. So, while they will ensure that you and your spouse cover all topics regarding your divorce, they cannot give any insight on what might be the best option for you, specifically. There’s a big difference between knowing that you need to come to a decision regarding your retirement accounts, and actually knowing what the most effective decision is that would result in the best outcome. That advice is where an attorney would step in as a legal representative who is there to uphold your best interest.
In most situations, you can have an attorney present throughout the mediation to offer legal counsel and aid. In fact, hiring an attorney to assist with mediation and any potential hearings is highly advisable, as they are trained professionals in dissolution matters, and will be able to help guide conversation topics while ensuring that your rights are upheld and advocated for. This is especially important if you have kids, as most parents deeply desire to come to an agreement that benefits both the children and their relationship with their child. Many people who are entering a divorce for the first time will benefit greatly from hiring a legal professional who can help streamline the process while safeguarding their future. Not all decisions made within a mediation or hearing are reversible or able to be modified, such as property, which is why it’s important that you do it right the first time.
As a direct result of having a professional available to advocate for your best interest, you end up avoiding that nagging feeling of “did I did it right?” or “could I have gotten a better deal?” Consider an attorney as an advisor who can and will bring up underlying consequences of certain decisions. Mediation inevitably requires compromise, and an attorney is able to apply parameters and explanations so that you know why you’re giving something up, and the long-term benefit of that compromise. Having peace of mind and a confidence that you came out of a mediation with the best deal possible is important.
Believe it or not, hiring an attorney can actually end up saving you money in grand scheme of your divorce and post-divorce life. If you enter a mediation with little to no legal knowledge or background, you could easily end up settling for an agreement that, had it been negotiated differently and with the help of legal counsel, could have saved or earned you a lot more money down the road. We understand that the initial cost of hiring an attorney upfront can feel burdensome, but when it comes to decision-making regarding property, spousal and child support, and other monetary negotiations, the initial cost of an attorney can easily pale in comparison to the agreements they can help formulate that will benefit you long-term.
As you continue through your divorce proceeding, make sure that you talk with your attorney about the benefits of mediation. Even if you and your ex have a high-conflict relationship, mediation serves as an opportunity to make as many agreements as possible, even if only a few, before taking them to court. The attorneys at Pacific Cascade Law have seen countless clients through the mediation process, and can help make the process as smooth and beneficial as possible. Call us at (503) 227-0200 to set up a consultation today.