“I’ve heard that women always do worse in mediation than in the traditional process (each side hiring a lawyer). How can I be sure I won’t get ripped off?”
It cannot generally be said that women do worse in mediation than they do in the traditional adversary system involving negotiations through attorneys. What is to be feared is that, if the husband has more knowledge about the financial matters of the marriage, and does not reveal sufficient documentation of the parties’ finances (assets, debts, insurance, expenses, etc.), the wife may not have enough information to make an informed, intelligent and voluntary decision as to what she feels is a fair settlement. A good mediator will insists that disclosure of the financial aspects of the case is made by each party to the extent of his or her knowledge and available documentation so that truly all cards are on the table.
Another concern arises if there is an imbalance of power, for example, where the husband is able to overpower the wife psychologically so that she gives in to his proposals for settlement that she really doesn’t feel are fair. However, a good mediator will watch for signs of such power imbalance or overreaching, and will takes steps to prevent one party from overpowering the will of the other.
A well mediated settlement is one that results in a settlement that is voluntary and knowledgeable, and should always occur after each party has consulted an independently chosen attorney.
Gary Borger, family lawyer and mediator, is a partner in the firm of Borger Jones Matez & Keeley-Cain, P.A. located in Cherry Hill, NJ.