With the rise of joint custody rulings, many co-parents are finding themselves in situations where they’re forced to co-parent with the exact people they wanted out of their lives. They’re forced to listen to the points of view of people that they want nothing to do with. They’re pushed into situations where they have to see the one person they didn’t want to see again on a consistent basis. They’re required to communicate openly and often with the person they argue most with.
For many of these couples, this leads to constant litigation. A fight for who has more control over what happens with their children. A fight for less contact with the person they want nothing to do with. Cases are heard and though each of the co-parents are paying thousands of dollars to lawyers to fight for their side, only one side can “win” in court and the judge decides who that is.
This isn’t the end for some of those couples, it just leads to appeals and more court hearings. More litigation.
A fraction of these couples see a different way of handling the battles. They see a way for both of them to actually be heard and a way for each of their thoughts to be considered when building a parenting plan. They see mediation.
Because I am now offering Parent Coordinator services for divorced couples, I thought it would be important to highlight the differences between mediation and litigation.
In litigation, you talk to your lawyer who talks to your ex’s lawyer who has talked to your ex. Depending on your lawyers, they will either hear both sides and come up with a compromise for their clients or fight for only what you’ve asked for, regardless of the cost for you. In mediation, you each talk to one person who works with each of you individually to ensure you’re both heard and the Coordinator helps you and your ex reach a compromise based on what’s best for the children, information the Parent Coordinator knows because of the background they hold.
In litigation, everything you and your lawyer and your ex and their lawyer have worked for is finally heard by a judge. The judge can side with one of you, make compromises, or come up with his/her own solution. In mediation, both parents sign off on a plan that they put their voices into, a plan that was decided on together.
The average cost of a divorce in the U.S. is $15,000 according to a Forbes.com article from 2006. The average cost of a contested divorce (those high-conflict folks) ranges from $5,000 to $30,000. According to the article cited below, mediation can reduce the bill to about $5,000.
The article cites lawyer fees as the majority of the cost in divorce, and while I believe that's true, I also believe it's because lawyers, brilliant lawyers, are not as versed in helping their clients manage the emotions that come with divorce and are more versed in litigating - which costs money. In mediation, the Coordinator is helping you lessen the emotional burden and the financial burden by talking through the decisions you want to make. A Parent Coordinator can help guide you to the right decisions rather than a decision that's the opposite of your ex's.
Obviously, litigation has it’s place. Lawyers are extremely well-versed in the intricate family laws. There’s a reason they cost so much! This post isn’t meant to get you to fire your lawyer and hire a Parent Coordinator, it’s meant to show you that working with both can be a cheaper alternative where your voice is actually heard.
What if you built a parenting plan with a Parent Coordinator, presented it to your lawyers, and had them check for holes? What if your lawyers drafted a blank parenting plan that you worked on with your ex and your Parent Coordinator? Wouldn’t that be a way of making sure you both have a voice in the plan itself?
This is just my thoughts of the difference between litigation and mediation. I want to hear from you! What has been your experience? Comment below and fill us in.