"A friend told me that women always do worse in divorce mediation than in the traditional process. How can I be sure that I won't be ripped off?"
As a Highly Experienced Divorce Mediator, it is vitally important to recognize and acknowledge how a person may be feeling during the mediation process, but to also be able to help them channel those feelings in order to think clearly and be able to negotiate a fair agreement. I always say to couples that the legal system ends your marriage, but it doesn't solve your financial issues or necessarily provide for financial security. Both spouses are generally concerned about their financial issues. Basic concerns that often arise during the process are "Who is going to live in the marital residence" "How will we afford two households","How will we be able to financially take care of the children, and spouse if applicable", "How will we divide assets and debts".
The key to a successful mediation for both spouses is that each person makes full financial disclosure of all debts, assets, and income. Often times a couple will come into the mediation process and announce that they have worked out all issues, and they just want me to draft the agreement. In most cases, there is one spouse who is more financially savvy then the other spouse, or the couple is unaware of a particular financial implication of the decisions they may have made. It is my role as their mediator to point out all of the issues so that they can make informed decisions based upon the necessary information. A lot of times during the mediation process, I may refer clients to other professionals, such as a Financial Planner, Accountant, appraiser or a person to value a business or pension if it is applicable to your personal circumstances. By the end of the process, both spouses should have reached a fair and equitable Separation Agreement and will also have an opportunity to have an independent attorney review the Separation Agreement on their behalf if they choose to do so.
Polly A. Tatum is a family law mediator and attorney at The Law Offices of Polly Tatum, located in Worcester, Massachusetts. She offers a complete range of family law legal services and can be reached at (508) 795-1557. View her firm's website.