Happy New Year and welcome to the 2020’s! The start of a new year, let alone a new decade, always leads a lot of people to decide that it’s time to make real changes in their lives. For some, that means finally sorting out an impending divorce.
Maybe you’ve heard that mediation is a good way to handle a divorce. On the other hand, maybe you just watched A Marriage Story and have been scared away. (For those who haven’t seen the movie yet, heads up, there are some minor spoilers in this post, but nothing you wouldn’t learn very early in the show.)
A Marriage Story: Mediation Gone Wrong
The couple in the movie, Nicole, played by Scarlett Johansson, and Charlie, played by Adam Driver, try mediation, but it doesn’t work out for them. The real reason for this is probably that a movie about mediation would not be nearly as exciting as a movie about a contentious court process. Still, there is a warning in the way events unfold for Charlie and Nicole.
Their mediator tries to set a collaborative tone by having them write letters to each other about their positive qualities. Then he suggests that they read the letters aloud to each other. One of them isn’t ready to do this.
Does this mean they should have given up on mediation?
Probably not. Not too many people who start divorce mediation want to begin by focusing on their former partner’s good points. It doesn’t mean they aren’t prepared to be fair. This couple was ahead of many divorcing couples in that they were at least able to write down positive thoughts. It seemed like a real shame then, that a little dispute about reading the letters aloud prevented the whole process from getting off the ground.
Sometimes people go to a mediation session or two, and then one or both of them decides the process just isn’t going to work. Sometimes this is because the process really isn’t suited for that particular couple. Most of the time, though, it’s just because one or both of them isn’t quite ready.
Don’t Give Up and Run to a Shark Attorney
When Charlie and Nicole gave up on mediation, it was a signal that things were about to take a dark turn. Not too long after this, one of the characters utters what may well be the single scariest phrase in the whole movie: “Let’s just let the lawyers handle it.”
Lawyers are important in a divorce. Generally speaking, the earlier you consult with an attorney the better. Equally important, however, is the kind of attorney you choose to work with, as well as the amount of power you turn over. When two people decide to hire two other people to determine all of the most important aspects of their future lives, a few things tend to happen:
- Things become very expensive very quickly;
- Hostility increases; and
- It takes longer to work everything out.
So, what should you do if you aren’t sure that one or both of you is emotionally ready for mediation? There are better alternatives than turning everything over to shark attorneys. We’ll talk more about how to handle a lack of readiness in our next post.
Reviewing the Mediation Process
The beginning of a brand-new year is a good time to review all the phases of divorce mediation, and that’s exactly what we are going to do over the next few months. Readiness is just the first step. We’ll take a look at each phase of the process, reviewing major points and adding a few new tips.
Topics we’ll cover include the following:
- The Decision to Divorce
- The Decision to Mediate
- Preparing for Mediation
- The Mediation Process
- Settlement Agreements
- Finalizing Divorce, and
- Mediating Post-Judgment Issues
So stay tuned. It’s going to be an interesting year! Meanwhile, if you are ready to talk to someone about the mediation process, contact one of our experienced family law mediators today, for an initial consultation.