June 13, 2014

Keeping Mediation Costs Down: Part II

As I wrote last month, I always look forward to speaking with potential clients during a free 15 minute phone consultation.  I enjoy having a bit of my workday that is not billed, that is available to anyone who would like 15 minutes of my time and my professional mind.  It is an opportunity for me to share the wealth of information in my head about how to approach getting a divorce.  To me, divorce is not a crisis, but rather a situation to approach from many different angles—emotional, fiscal, and legal.  I enjoy taking a few moments to speak with people having a tough time and support them with information and a view of things that keeps coming back to, “You can make it through this.”

One of the most asked questions during a free 15 minute phone consultation is, understandably, “How much will our mediation cost?”  My reply is always the same, “I have no idea, but the cost is driven by two things: you and your spouse’s personalities and the complexity of your financial and legal situation.”  When people ask me what their financial and legal complexity has to do with the cost of mediation I have a few stories to quickly illustrate that notion during a phone call, but there is a further depth I do not have time to share in a 15 minute phone consultation that I would like to share with you now about how clients’ financial and legal situation affects cost.

There are quite a few attitudes about their financial and legal situation people can adopt to dramatically lower the cost of mediation:

  • The law is not automatically the “fair” outcome
  • Focusing on your legal rights can lead to conflict as there are usually multiple interpretations of an individual’s rights under the law and it can escalate costs by necessitating each person hire a consulting attorney and one or both people leave the mediation process; therefore it can be more efficient to focus on developing an outcome you can live with rather than what you are told your legal rights are
  • Remember that the other person has the power to choose an outcome consistent with the law because they always have the choice to enter the adversarial court system
  • It is cost-effective, if you are not familiar with your finances, or you have assets with structural, tax, or debt complexity, to pay a professional to organize your finances and guide you through understanding them
  • Financial and legally complex situations are often intertwined with emotional issues—such as people’s attachment/conceptions around money—making it sometimes cost-effective to work with a mental health professional who specializes in the divorce process in conjunction with your mediator to unwind the emotional layers prior to analyzing options and negotiating outcomes
  • Don’t hesitate to bring in other professionals—like CPAs, business and asset valuators, mental health professionals, estate attorneys, or certified divorce financial analysts—as it  usually simplifies the information to an extent it ultimately saves time and money, and reduces anxiety
  • If you feel unable to be responsible for making your own decisions, still consider mediating, and having your consulting attorney attend mediation sessions with you

She is even-handed, neutral, and unbiased in her counsel.

Unmani chose to practice family law and dedicates herself to resolving disputes with equanimity, respecting the emotional needs and wishes of each party at the table.  She is even-handed, neutral, and unbiased in her counsel. She also provided appropriate referrals to additional professionals. If you choose mediation – (the only sane way) – to complete your divorce from your once beloved, inviting Unmani Saraswati to facilitate is a brilliant choice.

- Mark S.
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