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Does Mediation Work?

Does Mediation Work?

There have been more than 50 studies on divorce mediation in the last 20 years. There appears to be enough data to lean favorably for the success of divorce mediation. Here is what the studies have found: Settlement Rates

The research reflects that mediation produces agreement in 50 to 80 percent of cases, whether court-referred, voluntary or mandatory or whether there has been a history of intense marital conflict.

Overall Client Satisfaction

Couples who have utilized mediation have reported a greater satisfaction with their divorce then those who went through an adversarial divorce. Clients reported gave much of the credit to the skills and professionalism of the mediator. They sited the creativity of the professional, their success at managing the emotions of the couple, their ability to remain neutral, the mediator’s ability to have each person feel heard and understood, and to help the couple come to fair agreements about their property settlement, child custody and parenting plans.

Satisfaction Among Women

In general, the difference in the levels of satisfaction with mediation among men and women is not statistically significant. This is in contrast to adversarial divorce, where men are significantly more dissatisfied than women with the process and outcome.

There has been some discussion of findings that women are disadvantaged in mediation, but that initial research has been discredited. On the whole, women in mediation express greater satisfaction with both process and outcomes than do their litigation counterparts

Effect on Terms of Agreement

In general, mediated agreements tend to be more comprehensive than settlements reached either voluntarily or involuntarily in adversarial court. In general, mediation results in more joint legal custody compared to adversarial processes, but not necessarily a different parenting schedule. Researchers have not noted a statistical difference in the treatment of child support payments, although mediating fathers are more likely to agree to pay for “extras” for their children and are more likely to agree to help with college expenses.

Long Term Mental Health

Researchers agree that mediation does not seem to have any long-term statistically significant effect on the psychological adjustment of either divorcing couples or their children, whether the mediation is custody only or comprehensive

Cost in Time and Money

Mediating couples tend to resolve issues in their divorce in substantially less time than that taken by their counterparts in litigation. They also tend to spend significantly less money. In one study, couples in the adversarial sample reported spending 134% more (more than twice as much) for their divorces than those in the mediation sample. Most reports tend to find less dramatic differences, however, in the 30-40% range.

Compliance and Relitigation

Researchers generally report higher rates of compliance with mediated agreements, when compared to agreements reached in the adversarial process. This includes parenting schedules, payment of child support and spousal support, and completing the final division of property. Relitigation rates are low in general among mediated samples and are lower than in adversarial samples. A possible major contribution is the feeling each person has on making the final outcome.

Kathy Memel, Ph.D, MFT

I have a deep and caring concern for the human condition and having more than 20 years experience as a licensed marriage & family therapist has influenced my practice of psychology. Working with individuals, couples and families, together we develop a fuller understanding of your thoughts, motivations and behaviors.

I have served as a Family Mediator at the Los Angeles Superior Conciliation Court and has over 20 years of professional experience as a Licensed Marriage, Family and Child Counselor. My background includes training in child custody mediation, parenting skills education, and counseling. I also bring five years of experience working as a paralegal in family law.

I am currently a member of the Academy of Family Mediators, the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists and a member of the Association of Family & Conciliation Courts.

I bring a vitality, warmth and understanding that creates a safe environment to discuss the most difficult topics. I believe my understanding of childhood trauma, divorce, depression, anxiety, grief and loss, creates a knowledgeable and well trained clinician. My goal is to offer an education and understanding of what causes us to feel stuck and then helps to open up a viewpoint that increases our options and choices.

Working independently or as part of a therapist/attorney team, I have the experience and expertise to deal with the volatile emotional issues that can arise in child custody cases. Approximately 90% of the families I work with reach an agreement and leave with a positive attitude. I have a reputation for working creatively with attorneys and judicial officers. I have been able to help parents understand the issues they face and implement and innovative, effective and mutually-satisfactory Child Custody & Visitation Parenting Plan that focuses on the “best interests of the children.”

How Does Divorce Mediation Work?

Divorce is a hurtful process. Strong emotions of anger can linger for years. Feelings of being rejected can even be carried over to new relationships. For many divorcing couples, the most excruciating part of the proceedings is often the loss of self-respect. Confronted with implacable feelings of fear and anger, many people in the process of divorcing each other are often dismayed by the ease in which they seem to forsake values that they had held in deep regard such as empathy, compassion, and respect. The need to hurt often takes the place of what used to be abiding and intense love. Revenge replaces caring. Aggression supplants civility. When such humane values are given up, it results in the loss of dignity and self-respect that is often seen in divorce proceedings.

However, many divorcing couples are discovering that they can preserve their dignity, compassion, and self-respect through approaching divorce in a new way – via mediation. Traditionally, divorce has always been approached in an adversarial manner, often resulting in the breakdown in communication between the parties, expensive court proceedings, accompanied by intense hostility. Many couples often find that despite their initial good intentions, the adversarial nature of the proceedings would complicate matters by turning even small issues into complicated and insurmountable ones, requiring a substantial amount of money and time to resolve. Such experiences have left many divorcing or divorced people feeling as if they have betrayed their inner values, as well as being unfairly treated and victimized. While sometimes there may be no other way out, not every couple wants or needs this sort of ending to their marriage.

How does divorce mediation provide an alternative?

Divorce mediation provides an alternative to divorcing couples because people specially trained in mediation, known as divorce mediators, help them to come to an agreement on issues related to their divorce, without them going the adversarial route. The mediator gives the couple financial and legal information, helps them to understand the emotional and psychological aspects of divorcing, its impact on the children, as well as providing tips on conflict management. The mediator stays neutral all through the process, without being judgmental towards either spouse regarding the motivations or reasons for their decision to part ways. The methods of mediation are designed to lessen hostility, increase communication, and promote the expression and maintenance of caring and respect between the divorcing couple as well as their family. This results in divorce no longer, having to be synonymous with loss of self-respect and acrimony.

With divorce mediation, couples have the ability of deciding for themselves under what conditions, when, and how their divorce will take place. Mediation is focused on agreement, oriented towards achieving a goal, and is time limited. Unlike marriage counseling, it is not meant to improve or save a marriage, nor does it help divorcing couples make decisions, like in arbitration. Instead, divorce mediation helps in providing guidance along with creating an environment wherein divorcing couples can arrive at an agreement on the issues related to their divorce, putting those agreements on paper, and thereby beginning the process of moving on into the future.

How exactly is mediation different from the adversarial system?

In the traditional adversarial method of divorce, separate attorneys are hired by each spouse to represent themselves. These lawyers then spend a lot of time in negotiations with each other, and then more time to communicate the outcome of their negotiations to their clients. This adversarial method exacerbates the conflict, anxiety and stress, along with escalating the legal fees. If the lawyers do not succeed in arriving at an agreement, a judge will have to decide about the issues associated with the divorce. This results in turning it into a litigation, which delays the process of the divorce, often for a number of years. It also results in compromising the privacy of the individuals concerned while depleting their assets which otherwise could have been divided between the couple or used for providing for the children.

However, when couples resort to mediation, they take the assistance of a trained mediator to negotiate with each other directly in order to arrive at an agreement about every aspect of their divorce, such as child support, arrangements about parenting, and dividing the property. The mediator remains a neutral third party whose exclusive responsibility is facilitating negotiations by determining the issues, examining the possible solutions, and giving advise about all the matters that ought to be included in the final agreement.

Thus, mediation helps in reducing the cost of divorcing. Studies have shown that the adversarial method of using two attorneys escalates the total fees of the divorce by as much as 134 percent compared to using the mediation approach. These studies have also shown that divorces that are mediated lessens hostility, leaving the divorcing couples more satisfied with the outcome, and increased their abidance with the agreements arrived at during the mediation process.

Mediation helps in acknowledging emotions

One of the distinctive beneficial aspects of the process of mediation is the manner in which acknowledgment is given to emotions without allowing them to hinder the process of arriving at an agreement. Oftentimes, the adversarial approach fuels the anger of the divorcing couple, resulting in them focusing only on their disagreements, which leads them to lose sight of the things that they do agree about. Mediation helps in couples being able to express their natural feelings of rejection, fear, and hostility in a controlled and neutral environment wherein they can be handled and interpreted in such a way that these emotions are not misunderstood or are allowed to escalate the conflict. This aspect, more than anything else, is what distinguishes divorce via mediation from other ways of divorcing.

Even though mediation is a novel approach to divorce and family law, it is one of the most time-tested methods used in resolving conflicts. Mediation is one of best ways of helping divorcing couples reaching far-reaching and important decisions while preserving their sense of self-respect, dignity and humanity. In these times, with so many lives being bruised by the damaging aspects of divorce, humanity, compassion, and respect can be invaluable treasures.

Divorce Mediation How Does it Work?

Divorce mediation is often a less trying method of resolving differences. However, financial matters must be carefully evaluated. Understanding what financial records to bring to divorce mediation sessions is critical to successful outcomes. Having the right records will help avoid conflicts.

Financial Complications and Divorce

When couples are divorcing, there is already a great deal of stress and emotions are generally running high. One way to keep divorce mediation from turning into a shouting match is to have the proper financial records with you when attending your mediation sessions. It may surprise you what financial records you should bring to a divorce mediation. For ease of reading along, we will discuss these records by breaking them out into easy to follow sections with a description of the appropriate proof required to prove each category. These categories are most easily described as:

Personal assets – assets that are owned in the name of only one spouse Joint assets – assets that are owned in the name of both spouses Personal liabilities – debts that are owed by only one spouse Joint liabilities – debts that are owed by both spouses Company assets – if one spouse (or both) have their own business these are the assets of the company Company liabilities – if one spouse (or both) have their own business these are the liabilities of the company Contingent assets – assets that will be acquired upon the death of the current owner or settlements Contingent liabilities – debts that are cosigned by one or more parties to the divorce

Personal and Joint Assets and Documentation

Divorces mean that there is going to be some division of property between the parties involved. Mediators are trained to ask the right questions to find out what assets may be owned by one or more parties. Here are some of the potential personal assets that a divorcee may have and what documents are required to prove the value of those assets:

Income – standard income from a job will be required to be proven during divorce mediation. In most cases, the most recent months paystubs will be sufficient to prove income that is ongoing. If there has been a decrease or increase in income, it is a good idea to bring at least the last two or three years of tax returns to a divorce mediation;

Bank accounts – checking accounts, savings accounts, individual retirement accounts and certificates of deposit should all be disclosed during a divorce mediation. Accounts that are held in single names or as joint marital accounts should be disclosed. The documentation that is required is typically an up-to-date bank statement that is not more than thirty days old. In the event that any of these accounts do not provide a monthly statement, it is a good idea to contact the appropriate bank and request a value in writing;

Brokerage and mutual fund accounts – any financial accounts held by a brokerage including mutual fund accounts, stock accounts, DRIPs (dividend reinvestment plans), or other securities in the name of either one party or both parties to the divorce. The documentation generally consists of the most recent monthly (or quarterly) statement along with an up-to-date statement showing the value within the last thirty days;

Retirement accounts – retirement accounts that are held at an employer, bank, broker dealer or other custodian will require the most recent statement. Contact all custodians and obtain a current valuation as well as a statement indicating how often a retirement account is being funded;

Life insurance policies – while not all life insurance policies have a cash value, proof of these policies as well as statements from the insurance company indicating the cash value should be provided. It is also important to note that if these life insurance policies show the spouse listed as beneficiary, the mediation may result in them being kept on as beneficiary.

Remember, this list applies to all accounts whether they are in one name or are in both names. This list also applies to other assets which may be jointly held by a third party including children, parents, etc.

Please go to page 2 for information about liabilities and other financial records you need to bring to your divorce mediation meetings.

Divorce Mediation ListFully disclosing the liabilities of both parties to a divorce mediation is a necessity. This can help prevent future issues. Debt that was incurred by one or both parties during a marriage must be addressed during the divorce and failing to do that can cause financial challenges in the future. Here we will discuss what types of liabilities that documentation can and should be provided during the mediation process.

Personal and Joint Liabilities and Documentation

Proof of liabilities owed by one or two parties to a divorce are a vital part of what financial records to bring to a divorce mediation. Without an accurate list of the debts that are owed by the parties involved in the mediation, there are liable to be problems later. When couples divorce and their finances are entangled, it is helpful to make sure that they are accurately represented during the mediation process. Here are some of the liabilities that must be disclosed during the mediation process.

Credit card bills – whether the debts are in the name of one or both parties to the divorce, a full statement of credit card debt must be provided to the mediator. This is often a fairly simple process as they can be handled by supplying the most current statement. It is important that inactive cards be reviewed, especially if they are in both names, as they may need to be cancelled;

Automobile loans – those who are going through the divorce process should disclose any and all automobile loans during mediation. Generally, auto loans are payable over a maximum of five years but regardless of how much time is left on the car loan note, proof of the loan as well as the balance should be provided. Do not forget auto leases when creating a list of liabilities;

Home loans – whether the marital home is owned by one or both parties to the divorce, a current copy of the mortgage payments due monthly will be required. If the couple (or one person) has investment property, these documents should also be brought to a divorce mediation. First mortgages, second mortgages and home equity loans all have notes that are attached to them. Copies of the notes as well as a current statement of how much is owed on each loan should be obtained;

Student loans – if either spouse has student loan obligations, proof of these obligations will be required. Remember, most student loans are in the name of only one person, though the couple may have co-signed a student loan for a child;

Retirement plan and/or insurance loans – loans that have been taken out against insurance policies or retirement plans should also be discussed during a divorce mediation. These loans not only have an impact on the value of these plans but they also may require payments on a monthly or quarterly basis;

Child maintenance debts – if either spouse was previously divorced, there may be a maintenance agreement in place with a former spouse. These debts should be included as part of the liability discussion in a divorce mediation;

Personal loans – if either spouse has borrowed money from a friend, family member or the company they work for, a statement of the original loan amount, interest payments and balance should be provided.

In order to ensure that liabilities are disclosed completely, each party may wish to consider requesting a free copy of their credit report. This will help ensure that all liabilities are accounted for and that additional debt is not a surprise to either party later on.

Please continue to page 3 for a discussion on other pertinent financial documents regarding owned business ventures

Divorce Mediation and Additional Liabilities and AssetsAssets and liabilities that are not owned in their entirety by either party to a divorce may still have a financial impact on the mediation process. When a couple agrees to divorce mediation, these business and contingent liabilities and assets may need documentation to support their existence. While they may not have an impact on negotiations, it is helpful to have the financial records available.

Business Assets and Liabilities During Divorce

The financial picture of a couple who is involved in any business is generally more complex than that of couples who are employed by companies. In the event that one or both are owners or part owners in a business venture, the following items should be provided during divorce mediation. Having an accurate financial picture of the net worth of an individual and a couple is a necessity in determining the division of assets and liabilities. When couples are in the process of divorce and one or both parties have an interest in a business, they will need to know what financial records to bring to divorce mediation sessions for the best outcome.

Profit and loss statement – an up-to-date profit and loss statement should be provided during the mediation process. This can be prepared either by an accountant (and audited) or be completed by the individual involved in the company. Whichever method is used, it must be accurate;

Business tax records – in most cases a divorce mediator will require at least one and possibly more years of business tax returns. This is especially important for well established business ventures. Remember, the more information that is provided during mediation, the fewer questions that will arise later;

Business banking records – all banking records including checking accounts, lines of credit, loans, savings accounts, etc., should be proven during the mediation process. Providing these records up-front will prevent disputes later in the process;

Lease agreements – copies of all lease agreement including vehicles, property and/or equipment must be provided. This will help provide a better overall picture of the strength (or weakness) of the company.

Divorcing couples that have one or more parties involved in a business often have employees, key life insurance policies and other financial obligations. Any documents that show the overall financial status of the company should be provided during the divorce mediation process.

Contingent Liabilities and Assets

Another typically overlooked group of assets and liabilities may require specific financial documents to bring to a divorce mediation. this group of assets and liabilities would be contingent on an offsetting event. Some of the items to consider are:

Loans where either party is a co-signor – If either spouse is a co-signor on a loan there is a chance that they could be liable in the future for that loan. This may be a car loan, home loan or student loan. While this may not have an impact on the ultimate divorce settlement, there may still be valid reasons for their disclosure;

Transfer on Death (TOD) assets – These assets are passed on only in the event of the death of the current owner. While the assets are not currently owned, oftentimes there are rules that prohibit these items from being transferred to any other party. This is true with beneficiary deeds or assets that are part of an irrevocable trust.

While these assets and liabilities may not be considered as relevant during the divorce mediation process, it may still be helpful to have the documentation available in the event that a question arises.



Nolo – Law for All

Will Collaborative Divorce Work for You? Stoner, Katherine; Divorce Without Court A Guide to Mediation & Collaborative Divorce Divorce Mediation FAQ

Author’s personal experience

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Assets via Atsawintarangkul Liabilities via Vuono Business assets and liabilities via

New Years Dissolution: Divorce. Is there a post-holiday divorce phenomenon?

(PRWEB) January 12, 2004

Long time practitioners in the counseling and legal professions believe that the stress of the holidays causes so much domestic friction that by the time the new year is upon us, many couples have decided to separate and divorce.

”They begin the New Year by initiating a divorce. ItÂÂ’s part of the New YearÂÂ’s resolution process,” said attorney Keila Gilbert, president of the Alpha Center for Divorce Mediation. ”Many postpone it to get through one last holiday for the children.”    Others try to stay together through the holidays for the tax benefits of living together through one more year.

Tina Mazaheri, a divorce and criminal attorney in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, has also noticed the increase in divorce calls in January. She observes that the holidays are a time people reflect on their personal situation ”and get the courage to make a change.”    

The holidays can be an introspective time for all of us verified by the peak in sales of self-help books early in the new year. But for couples already experiencing marital difficulties, the season can be a minefield of problems that range from finances to in-laws.

Some couples overextend their budgets and their emotions. Even in the best of marriages, those without a financial safety net or who are fearful about their employment situation in the coming year may have disagreements over how much to spend on gifts and for whom.

A couple already familiar with marital discord may pin their hopes on the promise of happy holiday get-togethers or the expectation of ”perfect” gift to heal their marriages may be sadly disappointed. Committing to light stringing, hosting, baking, shopping and decorating can result in frazzled nerves and short tempers long before the guests start arriving.     

Work schedules can also cause tension. Holidays for shift workers, who already suffer divorce rates three to six times higher than average, are becoming rarer as many production facilities operate on a 24/7 schedule. Formerly blue-collar workers, todayÂÂ’s shift workers include professionals in supervisory, retail or computer operations and foreign investment bankers. For some in health care or utility and transportation workers, Christmas Day is just another workday. Retail workers, mortgage processors, and mail carriers are among those whose schedules and workloads get heavier at the end of the year and translate into less time to spend with the family.

For ”blended” families, where one or both parents have children from previous relationships, scheduling conflicts may arise due to custody agreements that have children spending their holidays elsewhere this year. The picture perfect holiday family portrait is often missing someone and this can lead to additional frustration.

Even being home can cause stress in the relationship. When the children are home for 10 days in a home already overcrowded with relatives, gifts and high expectations, a spouse may feel that they have no privacy, ”stuck” in the house with few outdoor activities.

Couples who make the call to an attorney this January to initiate divorce proceedings in Pennsylvania can expect to begin a process that lasts from several months to several years. In a recently publicized case where a Bucks County couple is in litigation over a $43,000 estate, one of the coupleÂÂ’s lawyers expressed fear that the estate would be eaten up in legal fees because the months are ticking by. Attorney Tina Mazaheri, when asked if that situation is an exaggeration of the traditional court divorce process, replied, ”No, I donÂÂ’t think so, but the court system is not the cause. The court has a two-tier system to decide property issues.”

The first way is to have the lawyers work through the Family CourtÂÂ’s Masters office where agreements can be arbitrated by the lawyers representing each spouse. Couples unable to come to agreement on alimony, support and distribution of property allow the Masters OfficeÂÂ’s arbitrators to review their situation and decide for them.

The other way is by a hearing in front of a judge who dictates a settlement for them.

Ms. Mazaheri says that 90% of her traditional divorces are through Masters. Couples can utilize the MasterÂÂ’s Office if both parties consent to divorce or by waiting a two-year period of separation or on proven fault grounds. ”Divorces that are delayed are because one party isnÂÂ’t agreeing or financial information isnÂÂ’t being exchanged.” She added, ”A diligent attorney can resolve these issues quickly.”    

But R.K.ÂÂ’s divorce through the Bucks County MasterÂÂ’s Office took more than four years. First, he had to wait the mandatory two years because his wife would not consent to divorce; then the two lawyers went back and forth on custody and financial settlements. A court-appointed counselor interviewed parents and children and then made a recommendation on custody of their children. After a hearing, a judge issued custody orders. And after 1-1/2 years of bickering between the lawyers, financial analysts and professionals they each hired, their financial agreement was decided by the MasterÂÂ’s office. The divorce was final in 1999. ”It cost me $22,000,” R.K. said, ”but my ex-wifeÂÂ’s legal bill was even higher than that.”

Many divorcing couples in the Philadelphia area have discovered a more economical way to end their marriages by using one of the Alpha Center for Divorce MediationÂÂ’s six offices in suburban Philadelphia. Mediation works for couples who can set aside those emotional issues that led to the decision to divorce in order to make reasonable joint decisions about their childrenÂÂ’s custody and property for themselves.

Attorney mediators act as a neutral intermediary between conflicting parties to promote settlements. Mediators do not make decisions for the couple; couples come to their own mutually agreed upon settlements using the services of a psychologist, an accountant and an attorney and other financial professionals depending on the complexity of their assets and custody issues.

Those who have used mediation found it also reduces the pain of divorce for their children. Alpha psychologist Dr. Eileen Klitsch has observed that children whose parents rationally come to agreements that establish where children live, go to school and spend their weekends, feel less anxiety and more stability. ”Mediation helps reduce the long term effects of divorce on children” she added.

The most important side benefit to mediation, says Keila Gilbert, is that ”most of our clients are on such a positive path to find ways to agree with their spouses to expedite their divorce agreements that they take those skills with them. They use that process to come to decisions on issues that might arise post-divorce regarding holiday schedules and things like braces or college.” The result is that both parties are able to focus on restructuring their lives for their own future as well as their childrenÂÂ’s future in a more positive way.         

NEWS / FEATURE ADVISORY by Mary J. Kremser, Doylestown, PA 215-348-2817

Professionals quoted in the article:

Keila M. Gilbert, Esquire 215-348-8586

Tina Mazaheri, Esquire 215-345-6400

Dr. Eileen Klitsch 215-860-5533