Thomas Ferreira here with the seventh post in my series on achieving financial security without a lawyer. Today I want to talk to you about the most powerful tool in your tool kit for saving money and getting great results in your divorce case: Mediation.
If you have entered the strange alternate universe of divorce and child custody, then I have a question for you: How many of you want a fair result from your division of assets? How many of you want strong relationships with your kids? How about support orders that give your kids what they need but don’t leave you destitute?
In short, you want a divorce result that you will be happy with down the road, one that preserves your relationships, gives you financial security, and isn’t totally lopsided in favor of your ex.
What you don’t want is a huge battle with your ex that leaves you broke, alienated from your kids and with a bunch of court orders you hate and never agreed to in the first place.
But often people unwittingly choose the second option by engaging in conflict or hiring aggressive family lawyers. Many of you will hire champions of justice who will ask the court to solve your problems by making arguments to a third-party judge who knows little about your family. Others of you will start off trying to cooperate, but find out that their ex won’t agree to anything. They wind up making their pitch to the same third-party judge, and often are surprised that the judge sided with their ex—and also surprised by their attorney’s bill. A typical attorney bill for divorce is $25,000 on each side by the time it’s over. That’s $50,000, enough for a fancy new car, or a couple of years of private school tuition for your kid.
I’ve often said that there is a certain almost magical quality to mediation. I have people who swear that it won’t work, and by the end of session one they are agreeing and even being nice to each other for the first time in a long time. Tammy Ferreira and I have done hundreds of cases together, and each one seems impossible at first. It shouldn’t surprise any of you that people come into our office angry, hurt and mistrustful of their soon-to-be-ex. Most people think their case is the impossible case. In my experience, almost any case can be changed from high conflict to high trust through mediation.
You see, the best way to resolve problems is by having a discussion. You know your own finances and your family better than any judge will. But here’s what happens: You start your conversation like two boxers in round one who are sizing up each other. Then, someone lands a punch, causing the other to become defensive. Conversations between divorcing people often go downhill from there, spiraling into conflict and sometimes even violence.
As mediators, we are trained to keep conversations from going off the rails. We always look for win-win, solutions, that is, those decisions that benefit both people. We know exactly what to do when a party feels attacked or the conversation becomes heated.
Here’s something your attorneys won’t tell you: most of your cases are not that difficult. Dividing assets and calculating support can be done with 7th-grade math. Parenting plans can be designed to ensure that your kids have quality parenting time with both parents. The hard part is finding the sweet spot of resolution between two angry, hurt or scared individuals.
I’ve often said that mediation is the sanest way to resolve divorce cases. A typical mediation costs about a tenth of a fully litigated divorce, or about $2,000 to $2,500 per party. And, the results are your results, arrived at voluntarily, and not imposed on you by an outside person.
You can mediate with me and Tammy, or if you prefer we’ll refer you to another mediator. But by all means get to a mediator. It’s the best way to …
Love your family,
Protect your finances, and
Reach for your future!
Thomas D. Ferreira, Esq.