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Divorce Mediation: Is It For You?

By June Jacobson, J.D., M.S.W.

New York divorce attorney and mediator

Separation and divorce are among the most painful and disruptive experiences an individual and family can face, touching deeply on all aspects of the life of the family. If you're thinking of separating, or if you already have, there are many decisions that you and your spouse or partner must face as you move from this time of crisis to the next phase of your lives.

Until recently, all matters concerning separation and divorce were handled by attorneys, one for each of the parties. Now there's a better way: divorce mediation. More and more people are finding that mediation costs far less, is faster, and -- most importantly -- prevents a separation or divorce from turning into an ugly battle that leaves everyone in the family feeling victimized and scarred.

Through mediation, you and your spouse or partner will be able to reach a fair agreement on the issues that affect your futures, including: parenting arrangements (sometimes called custody and visitation), child support and spousal maintenance (alimony), identification and distribution of your marital property and debts, financial planning, and other issues.

Mediation is a dignified process that can enable you and your spouse or partner to have the final say in your lives, with a minimum of the bitterness and war that often accompany traditional divorces.

Will I need my own lawyer?

You will not need your own lawyer to reach your mediated agreement, although you are free to consult with one at any time if you wish. Both spouses or partners will be encouraged to seek legal review of the agreement by an independent attorney before signing.

My spouse and I can barely talk to each other! How can we mediate?

Mediation is not just for couples who already know how to cooperate with one another. All that's required is a willingness to look for a fair way to settle the issues that must be decided. Many people find that mediation helps them to communicate better than they did during their marriage, and that's important -- especially if you have children and will continue to be parents together long after your marriage has ended. But even if you part as "best enemies," you'll have had the chance to have your needs and desires discussed, and to reach an agreement that you both can live with in all the years ahead.

How much does mediation cost and how long will it take?

Mediated agreements usually cost substantially less than traditionally litigated divorces. That's because you, not your lawyers, are doing the negotiating, and because you're paying one mediator instead of two attorneys to help you. Mediators charge an hourly fee that can be shared by you and your spouse or partner in a way that you both agree is fair. No retainer fee is required.

Mediation sessions are usually scheduled one or two weeks apart and last one or two hours. While a completed agreement can take as few as two hours, the average length of time required is four to eight hours, depending on the individual needs and circumstances of the parties. Unlike the adversarial process, which often results in delays which are beyond your control, the pace of mediation is set by the participants at a pace that is comfortable for them.

Why choose mediation?

While its primary goal is to resolve differences and produce an agreement, mediation also:

  • benefits the entire family, especially the children, by reducing conflict
  • avoids the high costs and frustrating delays of litigation
  • promotes communication and cooperation
  • allows you to control the decisions that affect your life
  • is confidential, avoiding public disclosure of personal problems
  • has a high satisfaction and compliance rate

You can get divorced without destroying your children, yourself, your spouse, or your savings.

June Jacobson, J.D., M.S.W. is an experienced family and divorce mediator and trainer of mediators. In addition, she is an attorney, admitted to the New York State bar in 1980, and Licensed Clinical Social Worker since 1987.

She can be contacted by phone at (212) 242-0806 or
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