Recently, I attended an intensive, five-day interdisciplinary mediation training workshop. Of the 18 people in the workshop group, 14 were trial lawyers, 3 were mental health professionals, and I was the only financial professional.
The workshop took a hypothetical couple through increasingly complex scenarios; each attendee took turns playing husband, wife or mediator.
Because we are all specialists in different disciplines with vital roles in the divorce process, we all had our own unique perspective. It was 40 very intense hours. The trial lawyers and I agreed: It was the hardest thing we’d ever done.
We were brought together by a common motivation: To learn new techniques that would enable our divorce clients to use mediation (a form of Consensual Dispute Resolution) to settle their cases.
Mediation is the process by which an impartial third party facilitates communication, negotiation, and voluntary decision making by parties in a conflict. But the process of reaching consensus, and an impartial divorce settlement for both parties, is anything but simple.
The advantages of mediation are numerous:
- Mediation is a voluntary process;
- Mediation is less costly than litigation;
- What happens in mediation sessions is confidential; and
- You are in total control of the outcome because you craft the agreement.
I learned that finding ‘the truth’ is often irrelevant to resolving a dispute. Even when two people view an issue in totally different ways, finding common ground for resolution is still possible.
The voluntary nature of mediation carries the added benefit of producing an agreement both parties can live with and comply with. For example, a non-voluntary court decision has a 60% chance of compliance by the parties; a collaborative decision has an 86% chance; and if a solution is self-selected, the odds of compliance increase to 90%.
Yet mediation has its disadvantages, too. If the mediator is inexperienced or unable to be impartial, or if there is an imbalance of power in the couple, the outcome could be unfavorable. Additionally, parties who cannot reach an agreement must start from ground zero, losing time and money.
My female client, strong, intelligent and eager to resolve her divorce, was led to believe that the total income from one of her husband’s businesses was only $87,000. However, we discovered that the proceeds paid to his corporation were actually $450,000. He wants to mediate; he doesn’t want to submit to subpoenaed discovery.
In mediation, disclosing financial information is voluntary. Income and assets may be hidden or undisclosed from the spouse with lesser financial knowledge.
This is just one example of how mediation can fail one of the parties involved, resulting in an unfair settlement.
Protecting your financial interests is important at every stage of your life, including divorce. Prior to mediation, analyze your financial picture by consulting with a Divorce Financial Planner. A financial neutral should always be included in mediation to protect your interests.
Have you heard divorce stories with unfavorable results because of inadequate financial analyses?
Are you seeking a trained financial neutral to facilitate your divorce mediation? Contact me, Vickie Adams, CFP™, CDFA™, at (310) 514-0240.