One common myth about divorce mediation deserves a debunking: You can’t mediate when there are complicated financial issues. This advice is completely wrong. The opposite is true. The more complex your divorce finances, mediation offers the best way to sort them out without resorting to expensive litigation.
Comparing costly, stressful divorce litigation in court, and the same divorce process using mediation, these are the reasons why mediation can be a better choice for complicated fiancial situations.
Financial disclosure same for mediation as in court
Courts require the identical forms used in mediation. Parties complete an Income and Expense Declaration (FL-150) and a Schedule of Assets and Debts (FL-142). The law requires disclosure of all material facts and circumstances related to money – whether asked for or not.
Additionally, parties can have financial disclosures reviewed by counsel before agreeing to anything. Whether your divorce is simple or you have profoundly complicated financial issues, your divorce process will require full disclosure. There is no difference between mediation and litigation in the level of detail.
Because mediation relies on informal discovery rather than formal and expensive discovery, people actually tend to get more information in mediation than in litigation.
Lawyers know the name of the game when served with discovery in a litigated case is to provide as little information as legally possible. It’s even more the case when there are complicated financial issues. But in a mediation, the information tends to be more forthcomingbecause people are not being forced into tedious formal discovery processes. This may seem counterintuitive, but actually it’s human nature. When people are forced to do things they tend not to cooperate. When things are more voluntary, people are less threatened and more likely to do what they are supposed to do.
Use a neutral financial specialist in mediation
The financial specialist can help gather information when there are complicated financial issues. Sometimes the parties may not know which questions to ask relating to the divorce finances. The financial specialist can help know what questions need to be asked and can also alert parties to red flags. This is especially helpful when the parties are at different levels of knowledge relating to the finances. The financial specialist helps bring people to a level playing field. Reports that the financial specialists produce can be very helpful in uncovering options and finding pathways to settlement.
Mediation lets you be creative with solutions for your divorce finances
Judges must follow the law. The law isn’t flexible. Judges have limited options to offer you. But when people mediate, they are free to create a settlement best for the family.
I have seen many “outside-the-box” settlements in mediation. Most are far better for the family than what a court could ever provide.
Get independent legal and financial advice
There is no risk in mediation. Parties are not required or pressured to enter into any agreements without the option to talk with a lawyer before signing. You can have an agreement reviewed by your own financial professional at any point. This ensures parties are not left to their own devices when considering challenging money questions.
Avoid shark attorneys who discourage mediation
Shark type attorneys will discourage you from mediating. They might tell you court is your only option. Be skeptical. If you have significant assets, they want your case. This serves their interests, not yours. They know they can make a ton more money if they can fight over your financial issues.
Don’t get sucked into a litigated case when you don’t need to. You might believe your case is so difficult, only a judge can sort things out. In today’s family courts, judges do not have the time to spend on complicated details. Those details important to you can be lost. A skilled mediator can handle any issue you present. Mediators take all the time you need to be sure you address and resolve each detail to your satisfaction.
Make sure your mediator possesses the training and experience necessary. When things get complicated, he or she should be willing to bring in additional experts. Ask whether he or she has worked with couples in circumstances similar to yours. Your mediator should be able to offer examples. Don’t work with someone getting on the job training during your case.