Mediating your divorce without lawyers is becoming a hot option for divorcing couples.
One need view only a few TV shows or movies centered on the law to glean that society doesn’t think highly of most lawyers. In the realm of literature, the attorney-disparaging statements of Charles Dickens’ and Shakespeare’s characters are quite biting. And depending on which version of the Bible you read, we were being bashed even back then. Let’s not even get started on bad lawyer jokes.
However, good lawyers are occasionally represented in books and movies. Their kind and exemplary work make you feel better about life. Valiant warriors still exist! And I am here to tell you, these kind of lawyers do exist in reality. I consider myself to be one of them.
Notwithstanding the reality that the “good guys” really are out there to hire, the idea of “lawyering up” in anticipation of a divorce is distasteful to some couples. Many fear that the addition of lawyers to the divorce process will create needless conflict and that legal fees will become unthinkably expensive. This fear is not without merit. If you choose the wrong lawyers – those that like to fight – an expensive battle is not out of the realm of possibility.
So, where does that leave the couple who wants to divorce with respect and cooperation, doesn’t want lawyers, and needs help working out the particulars of the divorce? A good option is “pro se” mediation. The term “pro se” is fancy lawyer talk used to describe a party to a legal cause of action who is unrepresented by legal counsel.
HOW DOES MEDIATING YOUR DIVORCE WITHOUT LAWYERS WORK
You and your spouse hire a Family Mediator. The Mediator’s job is to help you and your spouse communicate in a way that helps you resolve the issues in your divorce, like custody, visitation, splitting up your stuff, child support, and other issues.
You meet with your Mediator for mediation sessions which are informal meetings to talk about what matters to you and to brainstorm some options for custody, visitation, and the other things that are important to you.
You and your mediator prepare the settlement agreements you will need. Your mediator may also prepare all or most of the other court documents you will need to file.
File all of your court documents, including your settlement agreements, and wait for the Judge to enter your Final Judgment.
That’s it really. Pretty simple and effective.
HOW DO YOU FIND A GREAT MEDIATOR
Mediators come in all shapes and sizes, with different educational backgrounds, skills and experiences. There are mediators who are lawyers, former judges, psychologists, sociologists, accountants, insurance agents, realtors, and military veterans. Some mediators are certified and some are not.
If you know anyone in the family law legal community, ask them for a recommendation. You could also do a simple internet search to find some mediators.
WHAT DO MEDIATORS COST
Mediator prices vary quite a bit depending upon your location, their experience and education. Some charge by the hour and some charge a flat or fixed fee. On average, you could probably expect to pay somewhere between $150 and $300 per hour.
Some mediators charge for preparation time and some do not. Find some mediators in your area and contact them for their prices.
HOW LONG WILL MEDIATING YOUR DIVORCE TAKE
That will depend upon how many issues you have to resolve.
For example, if you have children, own a business or two, have multiple financial accounts, retirement accounts, and investment accounts, it will likely take longer than a couple who does not have any children or own any businesses.
If you and your spouse can come to agreement on many or most of the issues, you will have a greater chance of finishing faster. Be aware that Florida has a mandatory 20-day waiting period from the date a Petition for Divorce is filed.
Some people feel that lawyers cost too much or get in the way of settling disputes. Over the last 10 years, I have seen a trend in my local community with more and more people choosing to use a Mediator to help them get divorced instead of turning to lawyers. Mediating your divorce without lawyers may or may not be the best option for you. It is worth taking some time to investigate this option and how it could benefit you.