Litigated divorce can now take up to three years to finalize, with each party lucky if they get out for less than $50,000 (more often than not, it will be $80-100k per party). I wish I were exaggerating. While I don't pretend the above mediated case is typical, it does highlight the fact that mediated divorces usually take less than a quarter of the time a litigated case takes to finalize.
Bonus: they also cost a fraction of what a litigated divorce costs!
These parents had been to court every six months since divorcing four years prior, trying to get a workable parenting plan. When they finally met with me in mediation, I was able to spend the time necessary to create a plan that addressed the specific needs unique to these parties. In litigation, a judge does not have the time to address personal needs or develop customized plans.
Sometimes, a difficult conversation leads to the realization that you are better off letting go of unhealthy relationships. Mediation can offer the opportunity to do that in a way that honors the reality of the past and brings peace of mind when looking toward the future.
A couple with two small children decided to divorce. I initially provided divorce mediation where they developed an agreement that addressed fair and equitable property division, manageable spousal support and child support, and a parenting plan that met the needs of the children and fit the unique circumstances of the parents' work schedules.
Conflict broke out between the parties around dating (as both parties started dating before the divorce was finalized) and feelings of betrayal arose. To retaliate, the mother pulled out of the mediated agreement and retained an attorney. The consequences that resulted caused the divorce to escalate to an all-out war and shredded the family for three years. Attorneys were hired on both sides, and after several delays with the court, ultimately, through settlement agreements, a higher amount of spousal support was ordered to be paid to the husband for an additional year and a half. Personal property division was reallocated to the satisfaction of neither party and no consideration was taken for their work schedules as the "standard" parenting plan was ordered. The total cost for the case was over $150,000, paid for by loans from family members.
Needless to say, all marital assets and savings were quickly spent without attaining an agreement that met their needs. They are now working privately between the two of them to get back to the customized parenting plan created in the original mediation because it addressed their needs around unique work schedules.
Don't let this be you!
Take away: You have heard it said that when it comes to litigation, the only winners are the attorneys. This is a classic example of that. But what could have gone differently to create a different outcome?
A four-years-post-divorce couple came to me for mediation to modify their Parenting Plan. The father wanted to take the opportunity to leverage the mother's needs to address some things about the divorce settlement that he didn't like. I explained that the divorce had been final for four years and that those issues were settled. Regardless, throughout the mediation, he would still try to force her to consider the divorce in exchange for his cooperation in the Parenting Plan. When I would remind him that this mediation was not the venue for addressing those concerns, he stated that he felt the judge would consider his concerns based on the fact that things did not turn out as they were projected to. I shared information about the process of a family case in Deschutes County - in short, a minimum of a year and $50,000 if he chose to litigate the case. He was undaunted and didn't want to let the issues go, so I let them know that I would not be able to mediate the parenting plan.
Two years later, he came to my office and reminded me of my caution. He then told me I had been wrong, it hadn't been a year and $50,000. It had been a year and a half and $80,000 and nothing had been addressed in the parenting plan, his children were suffering for it, and he was requesting mediation again.