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Saturday, January 5, 2019

Mediation is Better for Divorcing Couples


Remember the fights we used to have as children?  The "Judges" were usually the parents, the teachers - people who knew us and cared about us.  And our fights were over nothing substantial.

As divorcing adults, the Judges don't care about us.  They are strangers assigned to the case - and likely temporary until replaced by the next Judge assigned.  On one case I had - it lasted 11 years, and in that time, we had a total of 4 Judges.  Each time, we had to rebrief the Judges.  The attorneys made a LOT of money on that case: 2 college accounts depleted, a family home sold.

Mediation isn't always available.  Sometimes,one spouse JUST needs to fight and will go to all ends of the earth to destroy the other side, even if it means ruining themselves and their children.  This is the "scorched earth" method.

3 reasons you should consider mediating your case.  You don't need to agree on anything - just agree to mediate.

1.  It is much less money.  Marriage is grand; Divorce - a hundred grand!  Lawyers are expensive, and paid to fight.  Fighting costs money.  A typical divorce lawyer in Los Angeles has a $10,000 retainer, billed against their hourly rates ranging from $350 - $1500 per hour.  And each of you has one!   A mediator is a neutral party - NOT paid to fight or advocate, but instead to facilitate a settlement.  A mediator charges much less than an attorney, and you are sharing the costs of the mediator.

2.  You cannot win in a divorce.  You are already starting with HALF of what you had!  No one wins. You may prevail at a hearing for spousal support to obtain the support you need.  But the truth is, if both sides were properly advised by counsel (or better, a mediator that knows the law), the support would have been paid anyway, without having to go to court!  Most people think going to Court is the ONLY way to get what they want and all good lawyers go to Court. This is not true.  In fact, the BEST lawyers can get what they want WITHOUT going to Court.

3.  The law is the law. I can summarize family law in 2 sentences.  1) Custody is awarded per the best interests of the children. and 2) Community property is all assets and debts acquired after the date of marriage and before date of separation.  It is amazing that from those 2 statements arise thousands of divorces which cost upwards of $100,000.  And who is winning after all that money is paid to lawyers?  The lawyers!  It isn't your pocketbook, or your children.  This couple spent ALL of their children's money for college (over $500,000) fighting over their kids!!!

4.  The Judge does not care about petty disputes, and in Family Law, most of it is petty.  In the story above, some of the requests taken to Court are a) prevent one parent from co-sleeping; b) set s Facetime schedule c) decide where kid should go to school; d) prevent Uncle from being around kid.

REALLY??!?!?!?  These irresponsible parents!!

Here is the basic rule: if it's your time, you make good Judgments for them.  If it's not your time, back off.

A good mediator would be able to provide information regarding certain things so you do not have to hire lawyers to file motions which piss off the Judge. 

5.  Most people can settle their disputes with information.  A common complaint is that one spouse is "hiding assets".  Unless you are Ms. Rossi, who hid her winning lottery ticket (and was punished because he discovered it!), most people DON'T have enough assets to justify hiding it.  Also, unless you have ready access to an offshore bank account, you would need to be dealing heavy in CASH to hide assets.  Presumably, drug lords, and money-laundering guys would hide money, but obviously people married to those types have bigger issues to deal with.   Sometimes one person is the financial person int he marriage.  In that case, ASK them for bank statements and tax returns!  By law, they have to produce it anyway, and the majority of people voluntarily produce this without attorneys!  Because the majority of people in the world are NOT hiding assets!

There are several other good reason, but those are the few I can think of.  If you are going through a divorce, try mediation.  Call my office to schedule.

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