With the statement “I want a divorce” many dreams and plans are destroyed; anger and frustration, guilt and fear, depression and humiliation – these are some emotions that accompany the process of divorce. All of these feelings are normal, for divorce is ranked at the top of the list of stressful events in one’s life.
When such strong emotions overpower us, our ability to think straight and make wise decisions is affected tremendously. Unfortunately, this is the time when the decisions that will affect your entire life need to be made. You will have to decide:
- How to divide your assets and liabilities
- How will the care of your children be managed
- Will alimony be involved in the process
Many of you will argue that you do not have such choices, that lawyers impose upon you their decisions, that the process of divorce depends on your lawyer’s experience and aggressiveness. In many instances this is a true statement, as when a couple chooses the path of a traditional divorce. Each year thousands of lives are disrupted and destroyed by the negative effects of a litigated divorce: broken resources, emotionally scarred children, struggling and frustrated parents…Is there any other way to divorce?
I believe that divorce mediation is a sensible alternative to the traditionally litigated battle and in this article I hope to help readers to understand my points on this subject.
Family mediation is a process in which a couple works out the terms of their own agreement with the help of impartial, trained mediator. The family mediator meets with a couple usually once a week for an hour. The essence of these meetings is to prioritize the problems and to separate them into topics for discussions. After reaching an agreement on issues like child custody, support, and property distribution, the family mediator prepares an agreement in which all decisions are carefully documented. The final step in this process is the preparation of a Property Settlement Agreement that is filed in court.
Thus, the couples are in control of their own decisions and will not likely sabotage their own agreements, therefore their conflicts are minimized or altogether eliminated. Statistics show that compliance with mediated agreements is higher than with court imposed judgments.
There are many other reasons why couples choose mediation instead of litigation. Mediation is less expensive, quicker and less traumatic on couples and their children. Additionally, couples in litigation are left to the mercy of their attorneys; schedules and the frequent delays of the court dockets. These delays increase costs, waste time, and create unnecessary stress and anxiety on all members of the divorcing family.
However, if none of these reasons are impressive enough, you owe your children a decent end of your marriage, for your relationship will not end after the divorce and will be tested again and again. Birthdays, weddings, funerals and other significant events will bring you together and stir up the emotions buried deep inside your conscience.
We have all heard horror stories about divorce battles that have a tremendous effect on the lives of entire families and, especially, the children. As a psychotherapist I worked with children of divorce who suffered form depression, anxiety, antisocial behavior, bed wetting as the result of nasty divorces.
One of the primary goals of mediation is to educate the divorcing couples on how not to place their children in the middle or use them as pawns or prizes.
The divorcing couples have two choices: They can spend years in litigation, spending thousands of dollars, and not be at their child’s birthday party at the same time; or they can spend three months in mediation, less than half of what they would have spent in litigation and be able to enjoy the birthday parties together.
Maryana Kanda is a family mediator and a parenting coordinator with successful private practice in Bergen County, NJ. She is an accredited member of NJAPM (New Jersey Association for Professional Mediators) and an active member of Children’s Rights Council. For more information you can either visit her web site at www.njmediator.org or call her office at (201) 773-8919. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.