The Benefits of Mediation and Counseling
Marital strife is stressful and can affect your work, children and other relationships. Few marriages are perfect and most go through periods when stress levels are high, such as when couples are experiencing financial difficulties, or a child is having developmental problems or issues at school or with the law, or a partner is having an extramarital affair. As a result, one or both partners may seek advice from a divorce lawyer.
A good divorce lawyer will discuss your marital issues with you and see if counseling or mediation could help resolve your differences. Your divorce lawyer can be instrumental in facilitating this for you by recommending counseling or mediation services for you.
Marital Counseling before Divorce
There are numerous professionals who assist struggling couples, including psychologists or licensed clinical social workers. Many look to their religious leaders such as priests, ministers or rabbis for help since they are trained and have considerable experience in these matters.
If you or your spouse has filed and served a petition for dissolution in Florida, you are not automatically required to participate in marital counseling, but a judge could order that you consult with a counselor whom both parties agree on or have the court recommend one to you. This generally occurs if you have a minor child of the marriage or if there is a counter-petition to the dissolution, or a response that disputes the facts or wishes of the other party.
A Florida court will order counseling if the judge reasonably feels that it is in your best interest and/or minor children to participate and to try to obtain a resolution of your differences. Courts can give you up to three months to participate in counseling. The counseling may continue for a longer time if you and your partner feel that you may not wish to divorce or that you might reconcile.
Counseling can help you understand the other party’s perspective and concerns and deal with any underlying issues that may not be apparent but which are adversely affecting your relationship. Some of the more common reasons why couples divorce include:
Finances: Some studies indicate that couples who argued about money once per week are over 30% more likely to divorce than those who had disagreements just once or twice per month. The rate increases dramatically if finances are disputed several times per week or even daily.
Lack of communication: This is often cited as the leading cause of divorce.
Abuse: Other polls refer to physical or emotional abuse as the main reason people decide to divorce.
Sexual issues: While about 22 percent of men felt sexual issues were the reasons for their divorce, only 11 percent of women agreed.
Any of these factors might be amenable to being resolved by counseling. Couples can learn to communicate. If abuse is a problem, the abusive spouse can take classes in controlling anger or seek substance abuse treatment if the abuse arises while the abusive partner is drinking. Couples can also learn to budget their finances, seek other sources of income and obtain advice or therapy on improving their sex life together.
If there is no hope for reconciliation, then the divorce may proceed. In any case, your divorce lawyer can monitor the progress of your counseling and advise you of your rights, your children’s rights, property distribution, alimony, tax implications and any other consequences of a divorce.
Divorces can be extremely costly with legal fees and experts such as financial professionals, property appraisers, psychologists or psychiatrists all getting involved in the process. Although trials are only before a judge, they can be stressful with couples accusing the other of improprieties on the witness stand and from the conflicting testimony of experts, all of which could lead to undesirable results. For these and other reasons, over 90% of divorces settle before trial. To help couples settle their differences and sign a Martial Settlement Agreement before trial, mediation is often a valuable recourse.
There are numerous advantages to mediating your differences with the assistance of your divorce lawyer:
The process is confidential. Unlike a trial, there is no court record of your testimony or of any records presented. The mediator will not discuss your case with anyone else.
It saves money. Litigation in any legal case is expensive. Lawyers charge by the hour as do expert witnesses and you can easily end up paying thousands of dollars. A mediation can shorten the process, side-step the discovery and litigation process and save you thousands of dollars.
It is fair. A neutral, or unbiased individual, serves as the mediator and who is typically either an attorney or trained mediator in divorce issues.
You can develop a plan and settlement strategy. Issues to resolve at mediation include child custody, parenting plans, spousal support and alimony and property distribution.
Many divorce attorneys act as unbiased mediators whose sole purpose is to help you find common ground and to negotiate and compromise on disputed issues. Your own attorney can also assist you in negotiating and presenting strategies and alternative proposals for resolving seemingly intractable issues.