When you decided to divorce, you may immediately have begun thinking ahead and trying to plan your future, especially as it concerns your family life with your children. As most California parents can attest, regardless of whether they are divorced, life is unpredictable and there is no way to fully prepare for what lies ahead when it is impossible to know what's in store. However, you can plan certain things, such as choosing which divorce process best fits your needs and ultimate goals.
If you're considering mediation because you want to get things over quickly, save as much money as possible and simply leave the past behind and move on in life with your kids, there are factors to consider to determine if this alternate form of dispute resolution is a viable option in your particular circumstances. It's true that mediation has many benefits but it's also true that it doesn't work for everyone. You can save a lot of time and money if you think about these issues before determining whether mediation or litigation would work best in your case.
How well do you and your spouse get along?
The backbone of the mediation process is amicable discussion. If you and your spouse can barely be in the same room without fighting, it may prove difficult to commit yourselves to a series of peaceful discussions where you both agree to negotiate fair and agreeable terms that are in the best interests of everyone involved. Even if you feel like you personally are up to the task, if your soon-to-be ex has made it clear that he or she is not going to make things easy, litigation may be the better course of action.
If you feel ill-equipped to protect your rights
Mediation and peaceful discussion do not necessarily mean that you walk into a meeting and agree to everything your spouse wants to include as terms of your divorce settlement. It is not about sitting back and doing nothing when you feel that what your spouse is suggesting is unfair. You can negotiate the terms of your divorce to fit your needs and keep your children's best interests in mind. However, if you feel you'd be more successful if a more experienced person did your talking for you, then mediation might not be right for you.
Physical or substance abuse problems
If your divorce includes issues, such as domestic violence or drug and alcohol addiction problems, it is likely that litigation will be necessary. The court must use its discretion to determine what arrangement would be safest and best for your children. Since you must agree to not discuss past marital problems or events that led to your divorce during mediation sessions, litigation is necessary when serious issues like physical abuse or unfit parenting are relative topics.
Who can help you determine the best option?
Do you know someone who has already navigated the divorce mediation process? If so, it can be quite helpful to ask what he or she liked or did not like about the process. If your friend or family member is familiar with your situation and recommends litigation, you may want to further discuss the matter with someone well versed in family law to clarify certain issues and determine which option is best for your family. The good news is that you can try mediation and switch to litigation if things do not go well.