Divorce and domestic conflict are unpleasant enough by themselves without turning for their resolution to a process which heightens contentiousness and perpetuates problems. Traditional litigation pits spouse against spouse in a battle for children and property which is by its very nature divisive. In court, there appear to be winners and losers, but in reality, all parties (and their children, families, and business associates) may lose. Instead of dividing the parties and focusing on disagreements, mediation attempts to unite the parties in seeking solutions and in recognizing that the responsibility of children and property may require them to work together for many years to come. Mediation gives them the tools and experience for future collaboration. It allows the spousal relationship to end in a manner which permits and encourages the preservation and improvement of future working relationships.
♦ Because mediation can usually be concluded in a compact time frame, it will generally cost far less than litigation. With less delay, confusion, and uncertainty as to outcome, the parties can more swiftly (and without as much emotional damage to the parties, their family members, friends, and business associates) get on with making a living and living their lives.
♦ A higher degree of privacy can be maintained in mediation than in litigation. The evidentiary rules of confidentiality apply to mediation as to any settlement discussion. The entire process can be completed out of public view and with only those documents that the parties agree upon (or that Family Court requires) becoming part of the record.
♦ In mediation, the parties control both the process and the outcome. Because mediation is voluntary and either party can terminate the process at any time, neither party is able to intimidate, exploit, or manipulate the other.
♦ Mediation helps parties to recognize their own and each other’s legitimate needs and to design options which reconcile and meet those needs.
♦ In mediation, parties can make agreements as to matters which would not be resolved by the court and can fashion creative business, financial, tax, and family solutions which would be beyond the power of the court to impose.
♦ A mediation agreement can (and should) include provision for a pre-agreed process to resolve future disputes, including disputes about documentation, implementation, and modification of the original agreement.
♦ The mediation agreement does not become final and binding until the parties understand, agree, and sign and it. It is recommended that parties who are represented have the agreement reviewed and approved by their respective attorneys before signing. Court approval is also necessary, but only rarely will the court interfere with what the parties have agreed upon.
♦ Parties are much more likely to comply with the terms of an agreement they have worked out themselves than one imposed by the court. Post-divorce litigation is thus greatly reduced.
♦ Parties emerge from mediation with their dignity and self-respect intact. Neither party emerges from mediation feeling the need to “get even” or the fear that the other party feels such a need.
♦ Mediation provides a safe, neutral venue for the parties to meet, to talk things over, to exchange offers and compromises, and to reach fair and dignified agreements.
♦ Because the parties can express their emotions during the mediation in the presence of each other and of a respected neutral, the process of mediation provides a level of emotional vindication which is impossible to obtain in court. It is not therapy, but it is therapeutic.
♦ Mediation is forward looking. It does not involve assessment of blame, but rather focuses on meeting real needs and on future working relationships between the parties.
♦ Mediation improves communication and understanding. This is especially vital when the parties will necessarily have future business or parenting relationships.