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As the New Year approaches, many couples are looking for a fresh start – apart from each other. The reality is that a large percentage of marriages do not work out, and the start of the New Year is often a clarifying moment for spouses in troubled marriages. If you and your spouse have tried to make things work and believe there is no other alternative than divorce, one route to strongly consider is divorce mediation.

Divorce has the potential to become a costly (both emotionally and financially), protracted, and exhausting process. This is especially true with traditional litigation, which sets up divorcing spouses as adversaries in an “I win, you lose” game. The problem is that divorce is not a game. The outcome of the proceeding will have a major impact on your future, and fighting it out in court is often highly damaging to all parties involved.

Divorce mediation is an increasingly popular alternative to litigation that offers several benefits for those who choose this option. Here are five of the most important reasons to consider mediation:

Cost Savings
Paying attorneys hundreds of dollars an hour to speak and negotiate on your behalf can add up in a hurry, and divorce cases that go to trial can cost both sides thousands of dollars. In mediation, couples speak directly to each other with the guidance of the mediator. Typically, the entire cost of mediation ends up being less than one attorney’s retainer fee.

Time Savings
Litigation can drag on for months or even years. Worse yet, couples are at the mercy of the court’s schedule. Sometimes, hearings get postponed for no reason, triggering needless delays in the process and causing hostilities to grow. With divorce mediation, couples determine their own timetable. Sessions are scheduled at mutually agreeable times, and the process moves at a pace that both sides a comfortable with.

Greater Control Over the Process
Most attorneys tend to take a cookie-cutter approach to divorce. With divorce mediation, spouses are allowed to get creative and develop customized solutions that work best for them. For example, they can set up unconventional parenting schedules to accommodate the needs of the children and parents. And when it comes to division of property, this can be structured in a way that allows the parties to retain the assets they value most. The ability to develop more innovative solutions during the mediation process can make it much easier for all parties to adjust to post-divorce life.

Relationship Preservation
Though your marriage is ending, your relationship is not. And if you have children together, it is in your best interests, and the best interests of your children, to maintain civil relations. Because divorce mediation is a collaborative rather than adversarial approach, couples agree to work together from the outset to develop win-win solutions to settle their differences. This type of process makes it far more likely that the spouses will maintain a good relationship going forward.

With litigation, the details of the divorce become part of the public record. This tends to put both parties on edge. Everyone must be very careful what is said; because later, it could be used against them. The mediation process is kept private and confidential. This frees up both sides to have thoughtful and free-flowing conversations without the worry of the conversation being “on record”. This can often lead to better and more creative solutions.

Divorce mediation does not require you and your spouse to be best friends. You do not need to agree on everything, but you do need to agree to be reasonable and willing to negotiate during the process. Some spouses still want legal guidance during the divorce process. The good news is that mediation still gives you that option. You and your spouse can choose to work solely with a mediator, or if you want the support of an attorney, that is possible as well.

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