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Mediation can lessen emotional, financial costs of divorce

We all know those married couples, and maybe you're a member of one: the pair that seems so unhappy and stressed out by their marriage, but sticks together because they're afraid of the life-changing upheaval that divorce appears to cause. Many Texans can identify with this state of being. They may not like the stigma of divorce or the idea of a drawn-out battle that emotionally damages their children. And divorce often comes not only with emotional costs, but financial hurdles that seem better left uncrossed. Sometimes being unhappy feels like the lesser of two evils, the other being financially unstable.

People in this quagmire often don't realize there's an alternative to the typical divorce process: mediation. In divorce mediation, a couple decides together what their lives will look like after they split. They create a co-parenting plan, discuss post-divorce finances and come to an agreement on how they'll divide their assets and property.

Because most divorcing couples have a difficult time communicating, mediation involves an objective party who helps both sides come to these agreements outside of court. A mediator who is a lawyer can be helpful because of the legal knowledge he or she brings to the process, but a mediator can also be a financial expert or a mental health professional. The most important considerations are that the mediator is neutral and fair to both spouses, as well as experienced.

In choosing a mediator, make sure both you and your spouse agree on the person's objectivity and qualifications. Do some research about the potential mediator's approach and experience, and you'll both feel better about the choice. Then you can hammer out the details of the divorce in a private setting, often in just a few meetings at a much lower cost because you and your spouse won't have to hire separate attorneys. Once the details are settled, your mediator can complete a separation agreement and even file the divorce papers for you.

Mediation may not be appropriate for all couples, particularly if there are major disagreements about issues with children or financial support. But if your biggest hurdles are the time, expenses and emotions that a traditional divorce promises, this alternative might be right for you.

Source: Westport News, "Law Matters/Putting costly anger aside in divorce," Susan Milan, Aug. 21, 2012

· Our firm handles divorce mediation and a wide variety of other family law matters. To learn more about our practice, visit our Dallas family law website.

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