In today’s economy, many unhappily married people are seeking the cheapest way possible to get divorced. If you fall in this category, you have come to the right place, but maybe not for the reasons you think. In actuality, an uncontested divorce has the potential to be the most expensive divorce of all.
Uncontested divorce may seem the easiest way out. But, before you seek an uncontested divorce, please answer two questions:
- Do you understand the issues well enough to know for certain that you have reached genuine agreement on every aspect of your divorce settlement and parenting plan?
- If it is uncontested, should it be? Are you giving up important rights or values that you shouldn’t?
If you get the answers to these two questions wrong, then a “cheap” divorce can turn out to be devastatingly expensive in the long run. Mediation with a divorce professional need not be expensive, and it helps ensure that you are entering into divorce with full knowledge of the issues and voluntary agreement on all of them.
Divorce involves some of the most important legal, financial, and personal decisions you will ever make in your life. Doing divorce “wrong” can be devastating — legally, financially, and personally. If there is one thing I would advise you not to skimp on, it is on making sure that your divorce is done right. How can you do this without “lawyering up” and going into battle mode?
Use of a neutral mediator to guide discussion of the issues that must be decided as part of the process called “divorce” can help you find out the answers to these two questions. For the investment of two hours of time with a mediator, you and your spouse can sit down and review all the issues that need to be decided in divorce, make sure you have thought about them, and double check to make sure you are in genuine agreement on all the important issues. If you have voluntarily decided on all matters, then great, the mediation session will confirm that you do, indeed, have a completely uncontested divorce.
On the other hand, what if there are issues you may have overlooked? Or, what if more detailed questioning reveals there are issues you are not in agreement about after all? If there are issues that you are not in agreement about, additional mediation sessions can be scheduled to work through those issues.
Looking disagreement in the eye, with help of a mediator, may also be a bit like saying “boo” to the monsters in the closet. If you are talking with your spouse, committed to fairness, and both of you willing to sit down with a mediator, odds are very high that you will be able to work through these issues in a peaceable way. Mediators do not give legal advice, but as a mediator I can certainly say, “better safe than sorry.” It’s much better to deal with the hard questions now and to reach agreement that you can both live with, than to find out years down the road that you made a terrible mistake.
Working through the issues means the difference between really “making peace” and “faking peace.” Anyone can say their divorce is uncontested, if they ignore a thousand issues. If you work through those issues and decide each one, you can be assured that you’ve reached authentic agreement. Mediation also happens to be the most cost effective way for parties to reach agreement. A mediator is a professional whose focus is entirely on helping reach agreement and with a large toolkit for achieving that goal.
Does mediation add a lot of cost? Hmm. Well try this. Weigh the cost of a mediator who helps you reach agreement versus the cost after you find out you’ve made a terrible mistake. Or weigh the cost of a mediator who helps you reach agreement versus the cost of battling it out in court. A realistic assessment of the options will clearly show that mediation is by far the most cost effective option for divorce.
This leads back to the original question: what is your “cheapest” divorce option? Perhaps it depends on how you measure.
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