by Lynn M. Pinder, Esq.
I received correspondence from a divorce client today. It outlined the typical monetary issues most divorcing couples face as well as some typical personal updates that some clients feel I should be privy to. What set this email apart for me was the last line which stated “by the way, our daughter is happy and healthy.” We tend to forget the effect of divorce litigation on our children. Most parents think long and hard about how the children will navigate growing up in a “broken home,” but not how they can be so negatively effected when observing their parents fight over equity in the family home, splitting credit card debt, custody, and support. This is not because we are bad parents, but because we may be so focused on how we will live post divorce, we lose sight of the fact that our kids are watching our every move during the divorce. We are teaching them how to handle high stress, high conflict situations.

When I began my family practice, I was committed to the idea of focusing on divorce mediation. Having been through a litigious divorce myself while raising a daughter, and being a child of divorced parents myself, I have seen first hand how the two people a child loves the most arguing over things and money can be so traumatic. My ex-husband and I luckily resolved to becoming co-parents who just happened to once be married. We are surprisingly good friends today with an amazing child who, despite her parents, has great conflict resolution skills.

I believe that negotiating an agreement outside the courtroom can create a sense of control that tends to be missing in an arrangement where two attorneys are negotiating for their clients. I also believe that a lack of control over a person’s future may be the cause of much of the conflict that arises during a divorce. People have a misconception that mediation is only for couples who can get along. This is simply not the case. A good mediator can work with a high conflict couple using a variety of methods and third party sources to help a couple reach an agreement that they can not only live with but be happy about.

Another overlooked benefit of mediation is cost. Because it is generally much faster than the traditional litigious route, the average mediation costs about $5,000 varying greatly from a divorce handled in court which can average about $20,000. This bottom line is so important in this economy, when couples struggle with the expenses of one household and are now forced to support two. But there is a more important bottom line for those us of who are divorcing with children – that the kids are happy and healthy. My mediation practice not only guides a couple through the financial aspect of divorce, but focuses on the family and the importance of quick and low conflict resolution on the present and future relationships that will continue beyond the final judgment.