The decision to dissolve a marital union not only is difficult, but it can have lasting ramifications for years to come. In our therapy work with individuals, couples, and families, our therapists are continually amazed how divorce continues to negatively impact peoples’ lives long after the ink is dry. Unfortunately, too many children are the silent victims when divorce becomes contentious. It is through this understanding that we have become interested in offering a non-adversarial process in which to assist in the amicable dissolution of a marital union.
The Family Court requires that certain issues be addressed and settled upon before a divorce can be granted. Such issues include child custody and parenting plans, as well as, the division of marital assets and debt. Only a judge can make a divorce legal, however parties can decide the process in which they use to come to an agreement on the issues.
In mediation, both parties meet with an impartial mediator who assists in the negotiation of a “fair and equitable agreement” based on their individual circumstances. This usually takes 4 to 5 sessions consisting of one hour each but may vary depending on your individual circumstances. Mediation is only appropriate when the divorce is uncontested and both parties are able to sit down in a civil manner to negotiate the terms of the agreement. Mediation is a participatory process in which both parties must contribute in pursuit of a fair agreement.
When all of the required issues have been agreed upon, the Mediator will draw up a formal document called, The Memorandum of Understanding, detailing the settlement of issues. Both parties, as well as the Mediator, will sign attesting to the accuracy of the agreement. The parties will then be responsible for filing The Memorandum of Understanding with Family Court. This is usually done with the assistance of an attorney, however, it can be filed by the individual without legal representation. This document will be presented to the judge along with any other required paperwork and court filing costs.
One might ask, “Why not just use an attorney?” Attorney fees can be cost prohibitive. Some attorneys require retainers and the use of time is outside the control of both parties. When one of the parties decides to employ an attorney to represent them, the other party may feel pressured to hire their own attorney to represent their own best interests. This typically doubles the cost from the start. In addition, attorneys’ training is adversarial in nature and they are required to ‘zealously represent’ their client. This can lead to a drawn out, expensive, and public process that may be unnecessary.
One the flip side, “Why use a Mental Health Provider?” Mental Health Providers are specifically trained to work with couples in the interest of both parties. They come from a perspective of respect and fairness in the pursuit of goal attainment. Therapists work with conflict and are skilled at negotiation and resolution even when people get emotionally reactive. The very nature of a therapist is to de-escalate crisis and re-direct to more appropriate means of coping and resolving difficulties. The negotiations will take place in a private, confidential environment where parties can feel comfortable to work out their agreement.
Through Mediation, couples are able to maintain control and privacy over the process and agree to issues on their own terms. It is the Mediator’s role to facilitate the negotiation in a non-contentious environment enabling both parties to walk away with a sense of dignity and accomplishment. Mediation is NOT couples therapy. We will not be in the role of therapist throughout the mediation process nor can we become either party’s therapist at the conclusion of mediation. However, we can refer either party to a qualified therapist. Please call for mediation rates and with any additional questions you may have.