One of the most pervasive and unfortunate myths about divorce is that it is essentially a legal matter. For most people considering divorce the first step appears to be to find a lawyer to tell you about “your rights.” So the first stop is for a consult with a lawyer typically recommended by some friend who says this is a good and aggressive lawyer. The happenstance of that consult often determines whether you will have a decent or a horrifying divorce.
Tag Archives: Divorce Mediation
I am frequently asked about this and thought I would share my experiences with you.
Cost: Mediated divorces cost less.The average mediated divorce should cost less than $3,500 including the fees for separate lawyers. The average conventional divorce can easily cost about $20,000. Mediation almost always represents a significant economic saving.
Time: Mediated divorces are resolved faster. The average mediated divorce can be settled in two or three months. The average conventional divorce can take one to five years to resolve. Faster resolution means that the family can begin to heal that much sooner rather than stewing in limbo and unable to move on.
Quality of agreement: Mediation results in better agreements. One of the worst features of conventionally resolved divorce is the high rate of failure of settlements. It is estimated that half of all conventional settlements are the subject of litigation within two years of the divorce. This suggests that many people do not feel committed to the contracts they negotiate under the duress of litigation. Because couples who mediate reach real agreement rather than just grudging tradeoffs mediated divorces have a much higher rate of compliance and a much lower rate of “post-judgment” litigation– usually less than five per cent.
Quality of communication: Mediated divorce improves the chances that the couple will be able to cooperate around the children after the divorce is over. Mediation, unlike conventional divorce, not only encourages but requires the couple to learn new ways to communicate about child related issues. In mediation the couple learns to manage such issues with respectful and cordial behavior. It creates a business like partnership to solve problems and help the children adapt to divorce. In conventional divorce the lawyers do the talking andthe partners do not communicate directly. So when the divorce is over and the lawyers disappear the couple is left with a vacuum of communication. It is no surprise that so many end up back in court.
Before he was a divorce mediator, he was a divorce attorney. Sam Margulies, Ph.D., J.D., is one of the most experienced mediators in the United States. Since 1980, he has mediated hundreds of civil disputes and approximately four thousand divorces including many complex multi-million dollar matters.
Author of several books on divorce, Sam Margulies is an empathetic and knowledgeable guide through the difficult journey of divorce. Contact Sam with your questions and to talk about your divorce.
In my work as a divorce mediator, I often find myself needing to coach clients on how to negotiate. So when they find themselves in negotiations that are emotionally charged, they often make many negotiation mistakes. But negotiation is not complicated and many can learn quickly. So, as I mediate, I often focus on the negotiation process itself.
The dissolution of a business partnership can easily become rancorous. The dissolution of a marriage can also become rancorous. Put them together and you find problems that are unique for both partnership and marital dissolution. I do not know how common the situation is but I suspect it is more common than we think. Eighty to ninety percent of all businesses in the USA are family owned and more than a few of these involve husband/wife teams running the business. When the spouses decide to divorce the economic issues of the divorce are complicated by the issues of the business. Generally, the problems arise because the business is the livelihood of both partners. This presents some difficult choices. Assuming that this is not a wealthy couple, in which either or both has sufficient wealth to retire, both will continue to need the income generated by the business. There is a limited universe of choice.
Readers of this blog who are interested in using mediation in their own divorces are cautioned that discussions with divorce attorneys may prove completely misleading. That is because the North Carolina courts and bar association have created a version of “mediation” that bears little resemblance to the real thing. I have met many clients who went for a consult with an attorney, asked about mediation and were told, “Don’t worry, we do mediation as part of the litigation process.” So I though it time to explain the difference between what I shall call “real mediation” and “phony mediation.”
Divorce is one of life’s most stressful experiences. In bad divorces acute stress can last for years and follow long the official divorce is over. It has serious implications for both mental health and all stress related illnesses and the stress can extend beyond the divorcing couple to injure their children as well. So it is reasonable to ask whether all this stress is necessary and whether there are steps that divorcing people can take that can reduce the stress associated with their divorces. The answer is an unqualified YES. Divorcing people can dramatically reduce divorce related stress by choosing the way they divorce with care and forethought.
Over the years, I have written several books on divorce and achieving a healthy, fair divorce for you and your spouse. My latest book is titled Negotiating the Good Divorce, How to Divorce with Grace, a Little Class, and a Lot of Common Sense, and I have decided to offer as a free download for you here on my website. For now, individual chapters are available in PDF format. Kindle and eBook versions are in the works. Continue reading
From the perspective of a mediator, extra marital affairs often generate challenges that make it more difficult to help couples achieve fair and amicable settlements. I thought it would be interesting to discuss why that is and to look at some of the problems raised by affairs when negotiating marital settlements. Continue reading
The next time you are in a restaurant look for the sad couple eating dinner in silence. They make little or no eye contact and have little or no conversation. They are completely disengaged and are simply enduring the meal until they can finish and leave. That is a couple on the verge of divorce. It may not happen soon and may not happen at all because there are couples who are held together by nothing but inertia and fear. But at least one or both of these unfortunates are thinking about divorce.
There are six signals of impending divorce.
1. No Conflict Resolution
The noted relationship and divorce researcher John Gottman has argued that it is not lack of communication that sinks a marriage but, rather, lack of effective conflict resolution. Couples who have not evolved a way to resolve differences without injury to the relationship end up avoiding disagreement and conflict. One or both has arrived at a point of despair that it is pointless to try to resolve a difference with his/her mate. It may be that one or both are simply conflict avoidant, or one or both may regard every conflict as a fight to be won by bullying the other into submission. What matters is that someone has given up. Differences are submerged resulting in a loss of respect, increasing distance and gradual withdrawal.
2. Emotional Disengagement
Emotional engagement is a minimum requirement for the development and maintenance of intimacy. Willing discussion of feelings, one’s own feelings and the other’s feelings are a part. Interest in the emotional life of the other and empathic engagement of each other’s emotional life all constitute the required elements for an intimate relationship.
Emotional disengagement is generally accompanied by the withdrawal of affection. If your wife has disengaged emotionally from you she probably doesn’t feel much love for you. Divorcing people commonly say they have fallen out of love. And depending on how sour the relationship has become one or both probably don’t like each other very much.
4. Lack of Sex
Sex both expresses and reinforces emotional connectedness. When a couple has not had sex in a long time it is usually a reliable indicator that emotional disengagement is advancing steadily. It is yet another indicator that the partners take no pleasure in each other and that the bonds are rapidly eroding if not already in a terminal state.
5. Increased Focus outside the Marriage
Empty marriages are boring. Some couples compensate by pouring themselves into their children so that child centered activity becomes the sole content of family life. Others pour themselves further into careers, working late every night so the time with the other is minimized. And as emotional satisfaction is sought exclusively outside the marriage the probability of an affair soars. The majority of affairs I see in my practice have started with a coworker who takes an interest and is fun to be with.
6. Preparation for a Single Life
I recall a couple I worked with many years ago in which the husband, as part of his planning for the coming divorce, took a second mortgage on the house to pay for a hair transplant to improve his dating prospects. Although a bit extreme, it is typical for the initiating spouse to begin preparing herself or himself by getting in shape, losing weight, attending to hair and wardrobe and other things to enhance appearance. And particularly with women who have stayed home, we often see a new interest in refreshing or acquiring a career to be less dependent on the earnings of the husband. We also often see the initiator taking up an activity such as tennis or golf without involving the other spouse and generally beginning to build a social network as a single rather than as a couple.
What to Do?
If you see yourself in this scenario your marriage is in trouble. I would not try to prognosticate about the precise tipping point beyond which a marriage is absolutely doomed, but I can say that these signals, or at least most of them, are present in almost every divorce I mediate. At a minimum it is time for a long and honest talk with your spouse. If you can’t have that talk without it deteriorating into blaming and recrimination, suggest an urgent session with a marriage counselor or family therapist. If you are heading for divorce, the sooner the two of you face the issue and plan for an amicable separation, the better your chances of achieving a good and non destructive divorce.
I am always available to answer any questions you have about North Carolina divorce law, custody issues, or separation and settlement agreements. You are under no obligation and remember: Divorce doesn’t have to be adversarial. You can achieve a good divorce. I can help.
Sam Margulies, Ph.D., J.D.