Here’s a great article from the Post and Courier (Charleston, SC) about the benefits of divorce mediation. I (and most divorce mediators) do not typically use the shuttle type of diplomacy described near the end of the article. Most divorce mediations are done in joint session with both parties present.
Mediation can shorten long, drawn-out process
Saturday, January 06, 2007
BY RON MENCHACA
The divorce of prominent Charleston attorney Gedney M. Howe III and his wife, Celeste, places a spotlight on what some say is a valuable but underused legal process that can spare couples years of acrimonious and expensive legal proceedings and preserve any remaining civility.
The attorneys involved on opposite sides of the Howe case – J. Graham Sturgis Jr., and Larry Richter – declined to discuss the merits of their arguments, but both said that mediation can minimize the hard feelings involved in many divorce cases and they hope it will work in this one.
The goal of a mediator is to act as a neutral party and help both sides see the strengths and weaknesses of their situation more clearly and to strike a deal that then goes to a judge for approval. Many counties and judges mandate mediation, but in most cases the decision is up to the attorneys and clients involved. The discussions can’t be used in court and the mediator has no authority.
Richter said he presided over his fair share of bitter divorces as a family court judge. He said mediation
keeps lawyers focused on finding a resolution. “You don’t need a lawyer just because you’re angry and want to draw blood from your spouse.”
Sturgis said he has seen attorneys in divorce cases get caught up in a tit-for-tat of elevating allegations and lose sight of what’s important in an emotionally charged process. “The process of litigation in family court is very seductive. You have to say bad things about your spouse to get relief. That generally results in a response from the other side.”
Mount Pleasant attorney Mark Andrews spent years litigating divorce cases before shifting his focus to divorce mediation and arbitration. “I know the destruction of it,” he said. “Sometimes it takes on a life of its own.”
Andrews believes that all but the most complicated divorces can be settled in mediation, saving couple’s time, money and bitter feelings that can last a lifetime.
Andrews does what’s known as “shuttle mediation” in which he bounces back and forth between opposing parties in separate rooms as he searches for common ground. By moving the discussion away from anonymous legal filings and personalizing the process, he believes couple’s work more cooperatively toward a settlement rather than trying to one-up each other through their attorneys.
Most couples will spend far more money on attorneys’ fees during several months of legal wrangling than they will on a mediation process that often produces settlements in a single day. But more important, the shorter duration may save their sanity, he said.