You get to decide how you will divorce—so choose wisely! Each process option has unique advantages and disadvantages. By taking the the time to learn about the options, you’ll be able to make a better choice for yourself.
If you live in the Seattle/King County area and would like to learn whether divorce mediation is best for you, contact Seattle divorce mediator Mark Weiss by filling out the form on this page.
Remember that divorce is a life transition that affects both relationships and finances. Your choices will affect not only yourself, but also your children, your family, and your friends. Divorce always has financial, legal, and emotional components. Consider which approach will best allow you and your spouse to address all components of divorce—financial, social, co-parenting, and emotional.
Fear is normal when facing divorce. An instinctual reaction to fear may be to take an aggressive approach in divorce. Old-style divorce is based on the court system’s adversarial system. However, adversarial behavior can be a provocation for retribution. It is difficult to back away once a cycle of mutual aggression has begun. Damage has been done. Fortunately, there are now alternatives to old-style divorce.
In divorce mediation, you and your spouse work together with an impartial mediator to reach agreement. You identify concerns and goals, evaluate options to address needs, and pursue a mutually acceptable agreement through dialogue. A bit like a business negotiation, you are working with each other to address your individual interests while understanding that any agreement must make sense to both of you. Attorneys are not part of the mediation process. It’s the job of the mediator educate, keep the conversation on track, and help organize the tasks, so you and your spouse can successfully reach good agreements for your futures. (If desired, legal advice is available from the parties’ own attorneys between mediation sessions.)
Each Mediator Has Their Own Approach and Skills
Every mediator has a unique style and skill set. Some mediators have special expertise they can bring to mediation to help you understand the impacts of different decisions. (Mark Weiss, for example, is certified as a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® and is an experienced divorce lawyer, which helped educate him to do his work.) For this reason, it is a good idea to interview several mediators so you can find the right fit.
Cost of Mediation
Mediation can be less expensive than other divorce processes, because you are working with one professional to address all the issues. An experienced mediator can lead you through most of the divorce. Lawyers are normally only involved at the end, when it comes time to prepare the legally binding documents. (Mediators in Washington may not prepare binding legal documents.)
If you live in the Seattle or King County area and would like to learn whether divorce mediation is a good fit for you, contact Seattle divorce mediator Mark Weiss at (206) 622-6707.
Collaborative Law (Collaborative Divorce)
Collaborative Law/Divorce is not mediation. Instead, you and our spouse each have a trained Collaborative lawyer whose focus is to help you reach an agreement. Collaborative lawyers are legally prohibited from participating in adversarial court or arbitration proceedings.
As in mediation, agreements are reached through discussion. The lawyers jointly facilitate the discussions, provide individual advice and support, and handle the legal aspects of the divorce. Often, an interdisciplinary team is part of the process. The additional professionals often include a neutral financial specialist, a divorce coach, and a child specialist.
Conventional “Old-Style” Divorce
Conventional old-style divorce negotiation is rooted in the adversarial system. The theory behind the adversarial system is that a judge will ascertain the truth when presented with two strongly advocated positions. Because the system is premised on each “side” taking a position, the adversarial system tends to entrench or create adversaries. The focus of each opponent is to try to win (or to not lose) at the expense of the other. As each side tries to maneuver for advantage, and the other “side” is often perceived as an enemy, the court is often invoked and involved throughout the proceeding even when there is no trial.
Negotiations in Old-Style Divorce
Negotiations in old-style divorce often involves trying to convince the other side that they will lose in court, typically with overt or implied threats of litigation. The hope is that someone will blink first and accept partial or complete defeat. Because the focus of negotiation is on what might happen in court, and is often time-pressured, only a limited number of options can be considered. The effect of this behavior on relationships is, at most, a secondary concern.
Most cases that follow the litigation model are settled, often at a settlement conference. (Old-style lawyers and judges sometimes refer to settlement conferences as “mediation.”) At a settlement conference, the lawyers will present the arguments and “evidence” that would be presented at trial, to try to push the other side into conceding. The neutral settlement conference master may picks sides or try to convince both sides to compromise. Because the negotiations are set up so that at least one side has to accept defeat to “settle,” levels of dissatisfaction are high and subsequent legal proceedings to enforce or modify agreements are common. And, of course, if no one blinks, the case goes to trial and a judge decides.
Which Divorce Process Will You Choose?
The door to the courthouse is always open. It’s up to you and your spouse to choose to work together to reach agreement. If you prefer to work together towards agreement, be sure to tell your spouse. Chances are that your spouse will not know your intentions. Be overly clear, making sure your statements, tone, and behavior are in alignment. If you prefer to work together, make it easy for them to join you in that choice.