It's Saturday morning. You're standing at the kitchen sink.
And you hear it mocking you.
Drip. Drip. Drip.
That pipe under the sink has been leaking for weeks. And the bucket just about needs emptying again.
Between the kids' activities, homework, your travel schedule and everything else going on in your life, you just haven't had time to fix the darn thing.
But today is going to be the day...
Your wife keeps telling you to just hire someone. But you insist you're going to fix it yourself. It's a leaky pipe. How hard could it be?
Four hours and one flooded kitchen later, you finally give up.
The water from the now exploded pipe got under the fridge, shorting out the cooling coil. And while you were under there, you somehow managed to break the garbage disposal by hitting it with your wrench.
That leaky pipe which looked oh-so-simple to fix is now going to cost you a lot more than you had originally planned...
Why Hire a Professional Mediator Instead of a Do-it-Yourself Divorce?
There's a reason professional plumbers exist.
They spend years of their lives studying, training, learning and growing in their chosen profession.
They have the right tools. And can perform a specialized task efficiently and cost-effectively.
Saving you time, money and stress in the long run.
The same goes for divorce mediators.
Professional mediators (at least the good ones) spend their lives dedicated to studying, training, learning and growing in their chosen areas of expertise: divorce and mediation.
As far as I know, the way to fix a leaky pipe hasn't changed much in the past 50 years.
But unlike a leaky pipe, divorce is an ever-changing landscape.
So while at first it might seem appealing to try to handle your own divorce, just like that leaky pipe, there are many more ways you'll benefit by using mediation vs a do-it-yourself divorce.
Benefit #1: You'll Spend Less Money Using Mediation vs Do-it- Yourself Divorce
Do it yourself divorce has a strong come-on. Get divorced for $399 or less. But what are you really getting for $399?
A boilerplate agreement with estimated calculations for child support and no guidance on alimony or how to divide your assets and liabilities.
Sure, this might be fine if you were married 2 years, had no kids and you and your wife each earned the same amount of money so alimony isn't an issue.
But that's not you, is it?
Go the DIY route and your agreement will have more holes in it than Swiss cheese.
Holes that will come back to haunt you when you switch jobs. Or get remarried. Or your kids turn 18.
There’s nothing in those agreements that can replace the expert guidance of a professional mediator.
Flash forward 10 years and you hit a speed bump and your agreement is silent on the issue. So you each hire attorneys (the very thing you were trying to avoid in the first place) and off to court you'll go.
The average cost of returning to court on a post-judgment issue is approximately $25,000 per person.
Far more than if you had just mediated in the first place.
Benefit #2: You'll Get Expert Guidance Using Mediation vs Do it Yourself Divorce
With a do it yourself divorce, you'll get a book of forms.
Or access to a website. You will be asked a series of questions intended to cover the basics of what couples need to get a divorce.
But what if you have a question?
Or if the question you're being asked by the form or website is unclear? Or isn't exactly applicable to your situation. Now what?
Therein lies the peril of doing your own divorce. You're on your own. And that's a dangerous place to be in because as you learned above, mistakes can be costly.
Using mediation vs a do it yourself divorce solution provides you with expert guidance that can help you and your wife navigate the divorce minefield.
Sure, the self-service providers would like you to think it's easy.
But having an expert mediator guide you through the process is absolutely necessary.
Benefit #3: Mediation Allows You to Control Your Agreement
In a DIY divorce, you get a book of forms and a "fill-in-the-blanks" style agreement in which you select from a series of common options.
But what if your situation isn't one of those listed? Or worse yet, you want to add language on an issue or item that isn't even covered in the form? Then what do you do?
Unless you're a professional and know what you're doing, you're out of luck. And you're left stuck with the generic language contained in the divorce kit.
Mediation, on the other hand, puts you completely in control of your agreement.
Not only do you decide how each issue is resolved and the language that outlines those resolutions, you can also discuss and agree on any number of other important topics that may not be normally covered in a boilerplate agreement.
Things such as the children's religion, appropriateness of overnight guests when the children are present or care and possession of the family pets can all be covered.
After spending time with a mediator and going through a number of these types of issues, you will come to understand that a divorce decree is so much more than just where the kids sleep, who gets the house and how much support will you have to pay.
Benefit #4: Mediation Allows You to Decide What's Fair
In the United States, there are two concepts used when dividing property and debts in a divorce: equitable distribution and community property.
In the states in which we practice, equitable distribution applies in: Illinois, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. While community property applies in California.
First let's look at equitable distribution. When it comes to equitable distribution, you'd be surprised at how many people think it means 50-50.
When the reality is, it doesn't.
Equitable distribution is defined as "the fair, but not necessarily equal, division of a couples marital property and debts."
Knowing that, you're probably asking yourself these two questions:
- How do you define fair when it comes to dividing marital property and debts?
- Is it 50-50?
- Is it 60-40?
- What if what's fair to you isn't fair to the other party?
- How do taxes come into play when deciding all of this?
- What actually counts as marital property?
- What assets are actually subject to equitable distribution?
- Is an asset marital or pre-marital? And what if it's both?
- What if you used pre-marital assets to purchase a marital asset?
Now let's take a look at community property. And specifically how it applies in California.
Much like with equitable distribution, many people think property and debts must be divided 50-50 in a community property state like California.
But that's not necessarily true.
If you mediate, you and your spouse can come to any agreement you both find fair. Even if it's not 50-50!
And much like with equitable distribution, you need to determine what is "in" (community property) and "out" (separate property.) Which is not as easy to do as you might think!
So whether you live in an equitable distribution state or a community property state, unlike in a DIY divorce, a mediator can help you and your wife decide what's in, what's out and what's fair.
Benefit #5: Mediation Helps You Spend as Much Time With Your Kids as Possible
You're an "all-in" dad. And you want to spend as much time with you kids as possible.
In an ideal world, 50-50 custody would be terrific.
Yet the book of forms contains outdated parenting plan models that haven't been relevant in ages.
One night during the week and every other weekend? Are you kidding me? What is it, 1983?
And your wife is saying, "Well if it's in the book, then that's how it must work!"
Now you're relegated to being a part-time parent.
On the other hand, mediation gets you the most time with your kids and will help you and your wife come to agreement on even the most non-traditional parenting plans.
By working with an experienced mediator instead of doing it yourself, your mediator will help you create options you never even thought to consider.
A mediator will explain to you the pros and cons of each from both a financial as well as emotional standpoint as parenting arrangements should be made with your children's ages in mind.
Mediation Gets You the Best Outcome
If you want a cost-effective divorce option that provides you with expert guidance, enables you to control your future and decide what's fair and helps you spend as much time with your children as possible, mediate your divorce.
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