Do women do worse in mediation than in the traditional process?
Although our culture is changing, there are many women who have not had formal training or practice in negotiation in the business world, so they may believe that they will be railroaded into a result that they won’t like. In reality, most women get a much better result in mediation than in court. In litigation, the majority of family-law judges are men, and there are often complaints of bias against women as they are perceived as too emotional. This is also changing, but in court, the judge makes the decision and you and your spouse give up your ability to negotiate your own settlement to meet your needs.
In mediation, you have a neutral professional who will work to empower both parties to make good decisions based on their rights and obligations. The mediator – unlike a judge – has no power to decide for you. Instead, it’s the mediator’s duty to make sure that both parties are heard (even the emotions) and that the agreements are fair. In other words, your mediator will help you negotiate a fair result. A seasoned mediator will not let your spouse bully you, hide assets, or force you into an agreement that you don’t want to sign. You may attend mediation with an attorney to help you, but to save money, you may both attend mediation without counsel – however, you’ll be advised to review any and all agreements with the attorney of your choice to make sure you’re getting your fair share. You always have the power to refuse a proposal and offer counter-proposals until the two of you agree.
The goal of mediation is to deflect conflict and help you both to find mutually satisfying solutions. You won’t be forced to cave into your spouse’s demands in mediation. The beauty of mediation is that it is a confidential, private, voluntary process where you can take time to be heard. If at any time you feel uncomfortable, you can discuss this with your mediator, or you can discuss a different approach with independent counsel. You have nothing to lose in mediation – you can only gain since you have the power to say no.
Mari Frank is a divorce attorney who practices divorce mediation in Laguna Niguel (Orange County), CA. She has been featured on numerous national television shows including 48 Hours, Dateline, NBC Nightly News, and The O’Reilly Factor and in newspapers across the nation including the L.A. Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal.