American Mediation Association was founded in 1989 with a single mission statement. Our goal was to provide an effective and inexpensive method of resolving disputes between parties, without the necessity of filing suit and engaging in protracted, expensive litigation. Prior to the advent of Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR), Divorce and Family Law attorneys enjoyed exceptional incomes at the expense of the parties seeking divorce, or modification of the Court Orders.
Couples who had sincerely tried to keep their marriage together, but who finally realized that their differences were irreconcilable, were forced to spend much of their savings or income, paying their respective lawyers to “fight their battle” for them. In the case where the couple had children, those innocent children were also damaged by the caustic nature of the ongoing arguments about child support, property division, and home ownership. The only person to come out of the divorce, unscathed, was the lawyer. Money, which would have otherwise been used to the benefit and welfare of the children, was now in the pockets of the lawyers.
In Divorce Mediation, the parties, with the assistance and guidance of a trained Mediator, could now negotiate directly with each other to reach a substantive resolution of each aspect of their dispute. Instead of the couples’ lawyers trying to force each sides’ position on the other, filing one document after another with the Court, and competing with each other to prove which was the best or meanest lawyer, Mediation allowed the couple to sit down in private with the Mediator, discuss candidly their individual needs and reasoning, and to resolve their dispute and structure an agreement which, in most instances, maintained respect and regard for the person they once believed they would spend their entire life with.
The children of a failed marriage have enough emotional stress to overcome without inserting the acrimony surrounding a Court fight. With Mediation, both pre-divorce and post-divorce situations and arguments can be resolved by and between the couple, using the Mediator as a facilitator who listens to each person’s position, explores different avenues of settlement, and guides the couple to a workable solution, all the while, maintaining dignity and proper decorum, and avoiding unnecessary trauma to the children.
Instead of both parties being forced to hire separate lawyers, paying thousands of dollars in legal fees, and then waiting weeks or even months while their lawyers “fight it out”, couples engaged in Mediation can now maintain both control and privacy in the settlement of their dispute. In more than ninety (90) percent of the time, disputes concerning property settlement, support, visitation, and other family issues, can be resolved with far less hostility, with one or two half-day mediation conferences, and at a cost significantly less than the retainer fee paid to just one lawyer.
As professional Mediators, we have observed that the same problems which may have served to weaken or destroy the previous marriage, often surface in other identities, after the couple are divorced. Couples who have gone through a divorce and are trying to start a new life, are often forced to deal with economic and emotional remnants of their prior marital relationship.
The Final Decree of Divorce, signed by a Judge, forces particular responsibilities and obligations on each of the parties. It is not unusual for one, or both, of the parties in a divorce to either misinterpret or fail to strictly follow the Orders of the Court. The reasoning or justification, by an ex-spouse, for his or her failure to strictly comply with the Orders contained in the Divorce Decree, run from anger and resentment, to apathy and indifference. It is in this instance, where the divorced couple find themselves on the road back to the Courthouse, where Mediation can really benefit both sides.
Ex-wives, especially those with minor children, may find their new life as a single mother filled with stress and disproportionate parental responsibility. With the ex-partners now trying to support two (2) individual households, each with only half of the income previously enjoyed as a married couple, budgets are sometimes stretched to the point where resentment sets in. This is especially true when one of the ex-spouses forgets that he or she is divorced, and tries to maintain a degree of “control” over the former spouse, either by economic or emotional means, often involving the issue of custody or visitation.
Modification of Orders is a term used when either ex-spouse seeks to have the Court review the monthly support currently being paid, and to modify that agreement by either increasing or decreasing the monthly payment. An ex-husband who has just received a big salary increase, and who has bought a new sports car, may be the target of just such an effort to have the Orders modified. The opposite can also occur when the ex-husband loses his job or suffers a dramatic reduction in income. Visitation and Custody rights may also be a subject of Modification.
The case for Mediation is simple. In mediation, both sides maintain the control and the outcome, and the arguments and reasoning of each party is communicated respectfully by a “neutral” Mediator who hears each spouse’s concerns and desires, and then works to bring about a reasonable and workable solution to the problem.
Both Industry and the Private Sector now use Mediation to address and resolve various issues ranging from EEOC complaints to contract disputes. It is widely recognized that Mediation has become “the civilized alternative to litigation”.
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