Picture this scenario. Either you, or your spouse, has begun the divorce process. You two are on fairly good speaking terms and agree that divorce is inevitable and that you want to finalize things in the least expensive and least emotionally damaging way possible. Do you trust him or her enough to believe there are no hidden bank accounts? Are you comfortable negotiating on your own behalf? Do you have an attorney who can advise you on your rights?
There are no guarantees in life except death and taxes. However, mediation is pretty close to a sure thing when it comes to avoiding the overwhelming costs of an all-out battle in court over property, assets and children. You and your spouse can agree upon a mediator who has experience in private divorce mediations. The mediator may charge the same rate as an attorney but you will be saving money, because you will divide the fees with your spouse. The way I handle private mediations is as follows: I speak with both parties beforehand and we schedule a mutually convenient time for our first meeting. Sessions can last up to two (2) hours and can happen as often or as little as you like. You can choose the topic of your session - i.e., dividing up property, figuring out custody and visitation, etc. Following the session I will email you a summary of what was discussed and any potential areas of agreement. Once all items have been discussed (and that can take anywhere from 2 to 4 sessions, depending on the parties' needs), I will prepare a Memo of Understanding which summarizes all of the agreements.
Please know that the Memo of Understanding is not a legally binding document because it is not signed. It does not become a legally binding document until one of the parties gives it to his or her attorney to make it legally binding/submit it to the court.
Mediation provides a really good option to those spouses who want to save money, chart their own course and spare the family from ugly court battles. If this sounds like you, give it a try.