Friends of mine in the divorce litigation community often poke fun at our unique service. They ask: how can you have both divorcing parties come into your office and resolve their entire divorce with them over a series of sessions? The answer is not simple but our strategy is – we insist that you everyone focus on the future and act in a way that promotes good negotiation. What does this mean exactly – let’s explore.
Once two parties come to see our female/male co-mediation team, we will start each session with an agenda. By working from a planned agenda, you will know what information you will need at each meeting. For example, property issues require appraisal and documentation of assets. So you will know for the upcoming session that deals with negotiation about the house and in turn you will know that you need to have a current appraisal, maintenance bills, water and energy costs, and recent property tax statements. By knowing what each meeting is about, you will be able to property prepare for each negotiation session by obtaining the facts relevant to that negotiation. The less speculation that exists about the costs and expenses, the less you will have to resolve.
A successful divorce mediation typically involves a lot of listening. And a lot less attacking of each other. Problems are solved in mediation. This is very different than in litigation where battles are won or lost. If one wins, the other inherently loses. We seek solutions so that both solve problems and in doing this, both parties win. We help each of spouse phrase issues of their divorce as problems to be solved as opposed to battles to be won. This is an essential element of our practice and one of the reasons that we have such a high success rate.
We also encourage spouses not to take the bait when one party attacks in anger. This is impossible to avoid in the litigation setting when attorneys often put fire to the flames that are your emotions, especially since you are spending huge amounts of money on the litigation. Any attack gives rise to a counter attack. It’s part of the litigation and unavoidable. We instead promote an environment that ignores such attacks. When attacked, simply don’t respond in kind. Only a fish rises to the bait. Let it pass and keep negotiating and it will become clear that you can’t be hooked and your spouse will stop and return to the work at hand.
Inevitably there are disagreements that will arise during a divorce. We often experience crying and hurt feelings and fear in our office. It isn’t as if people are besties skipping along to their divorce while cheering each other along. The difference with our services is that when disagreements arise, we offer a method for resolving them without getting stuck at an impasse. And we do this most often by relying on our experience and expertise to generate alternatives until you both find one that is acceptable. An impasse by definition exists when the two of you have only two alternatives and each are committed to your own and refuse the other. Alternatives exist to every problem in divorce and it is our responsibility to help cultivate options for you so that you don’t dig in and get stuck in the mud of an impasse. And we are very good at this.
Oftentimes we see clients who have been mired in litigation for a long time and only come to us because they can no longer afford litigation attorneys. And they are shocked to find that they are very close to completing their divorce or at least are way closer than they thought they were. That is because it’s human nature to focus on your disagreements. If you have a million dollar divorce settlement almost in place but find yourselves fighting about the division of furniture and household goods, reframing the issue as just 2% of the divorce helps to alleviate the dispute. Once you realize how close you are to an overall agreement, little disputes can dissipate quickly as resolution is nearly there.
Litigation attorneys and divorcing parties are both often very good at looking at the past. This is a great way to rack up tens of thousands of dollars in legal costs. As hard as it is, once you decide to pursue a divorce, the fact is that your lives will change. And instead of looking to the past to support your arguments, it’s essential that you instead look to the future to help you resolve disagreements. Your needs exist in the future, not in the past. A careful consideration of the future creates a much better environment for solving problems.
We can help you achieve a win-win divorce outcome for your family and future and would be happy to do a free consultation with both of you to help get you started. Please call us to schedule a time and look for more tips and ideas on this blog in the future.
Scott F. Levin