By Jennifer Segura
Since I became a mediator over ten years ago, I have witnessed a sort of love/hate relationship between attorneys and mediators. I truly wish this was not the case because I believe we could be of great benefit to each other if there were not this fear of one taking the other’s business, or whatever else the underlying concern is.
I have never heard an attorney outwardly call mediation a “shortcut” until recently, but I am aware of the sentiment; because things are informal in mediation, it is assumed they are also incomplete. This is not the case, at least not in our firm.
We Focus On What Matters
No doubt when litigating there is more PAPER, however, often much of that paper is useless or irrelevant. The goals in mediation are very different than in litigation. Even though from afar it may seem that they are the same; get the couple divorced. However, in mediation, we are only going so far down the rabbit hole as the clients at the table wish for us to go. We do not feel compelled to dig to the very end of every potential rabbit hole, because often the clients do not care what may be at the end of one of those holes. If they do not care or do not believe items are being hidden, then why spend the clients time or money searching?
With that said, we DO fulfill the legal requirements of ensuring the clients exchange their financial disclosures. In some instances, I feel we do a far more thorough job compared to what is completed within litigation because all of the mediators at SDFMC are also CDFA’s (Certified Divorce Financial Analysts), and we often have a deeper understanding of the financial issues involved in a case. Therefore, we often can help our clients understand their financial issues on a deeper level than if they were litigating because many of the more complex financial issues involved in a litigated divorce can be ignored or overlooked due to the level of contention.
What happens with those disclosures and how much weight is given to them, is up to the parties themselves, not up to us, as their mediator. We believe in self-determination, and we support our clients by providing the information, but not the answers to questions like “what should I do with this information?” If advice is needed or wanted, we point our clients in the direction of a professional who can help them come up with those answers based on their own needs and wants, which is not always consistent with what the law says they SHOULD need or want. And that is OK. We support our client’s ability to attach the appropriate amount of weight to each issue as they feel they should, not as we think they should.
The True Difference
That is the difference between mediation and litigation… we help those who wish to help themselves; who wish to remain in control of the outcomes of each issue; but who would like guidance doing so. This can be viewed as being a “shortcut,” however, just because it takes less time, does not mean it is a shortcut in the process. Our clients are involved in every decision made in their divorce. There are no discussions taking place behind closed doors, often without the clients’ knowledge at all. As the mediator, we work very collaboratively with our clients to ensure their sense of fairness is being met. We are not concerned with whether they follow a pre-set plan from an archaic system that is entirely inadequate for handling family matters. Families need more than strategy, deadlines, and court hearings… they need someone to join them in determining the best and most healthy way for their families to move forward in two households.
Are you ready to get started? Contact San Diego Family Mediation Center at (858) 736-2411 today!