In a perfect world, divorcing couples would find their way through the divorce process reasonably peacefully and would come out on the other side with equanimity. In reality, however, disentangling a marriage is both complicated and stressful. While mediation works well for many divorcing couples, it’s not the best path forward for everyone.
You can participate in mediation without a divorce lawyer representing you. Or, in some situations it’s better to have a divorce lawyer representing you even during the mediation process. There are, however, some telltale signs that un-represented mediation without a lawyer on your side probably isn’t your best option and that it’s time to consult with an experienced California divorce lawyer to learn about the alternatives.
Sign 1: You Aren’t Comfortable Advocating for Yourself
Divorce is difficult, and emotions are bound to run high. If your divorcing spouse is far more aggressive and vocal about his or her rights and demands than you are, it can leave you at a distinct disadvantage during mediation. If you aren’t comfortable advocating for you and your children’s rights and/or if you aren’t as verbally forceful, you might get lost in the mediation process. Your child custody arrangements and the financial outcome of your divorce are far too important to leave to chance; seek professional legal counsel.
Sign 2: Your Spouse Is Unwilling to Bend
If your spouse is bound and determined to obtain specific results and is unwilling to give an inch on the matter, mediation is unlikely to alter this fact. Mediation is all about compromising – both of you must be willing to let go of certain preferences in order to find common ground. If your spouse refuses to even consider making concessions regarding his or her demands, mediation isn’t going to be a good use of your time.
Sign 3: Your Spouse’s Demands Are Unreasonable
It’s one thing if your spouse is unwilling to compromise, but if his or her demands are unreasonable – or outside the bounds of legal guidelines – it basically dooms mediation to failure. There is little purpose in going to mediation for a meeting of the minds if your soon-to-be ex brings unreasonable expectations that he or she has already locked down.
Sign 4: If Your Spouse Is Using Child Custody As a Bargaining Chip
Many parents are so concerned about child custody arrangements that they’re willing to concede nearly every other point. This is not in you or your children’s best interests. If your divorcing spouse is using your anxiety regarding child custody arrangements as a weapon against you, he or she is taking advantage of you. The fact is that divorce generally encompasses four distinct components, including:
· Child custody arrangements
· Child support
· The division of marital property
· Spousal support
Each of these are completely separate issues that the law does not allow to be used as bargaining chips against each other. If you believe your ex is using child custody arrangements to manipulate you, it’s time to consult with a skilled divorce attorney.
Sign 5: Domestic Abuse Was an Issue in Your Marriage
If your spouse has been either physically or verbally abusive toward you and/or your children, mediation is not a good option. Domestic abuse leaves emotional scars, and it will be difficult for you to obtain the comfort level you need to negotiate for you and your children’s rights in a mediation setting. Your feelings and your rights matter too much to attempt to compromise with someone who has shown you in no uncertain terms that he or she is willing to be abusive within your relationship. If domestic abuse has been an issue, you are better off moving forward with a court date and with a dedicated divorce attorney by your side.
Sign 6: Your Spouse Seeks Revenge
If your spouse is out for blood – regardless of his or her best interests – mediation is not for you. Divorce is a painful process, but it is, nonetheless, a process that allows you to legally and financially extricate yourselves from one another. Though painful, it is necessary. Moving forward through a divorce requires you to make plenty of difficult and complicated decisions. If your spouse’s motivations are predicated upon getting back at you (for whatever reason and whether that reason is real or imagined), there isn’t much that you can do about it. Mediation is not likely to help your spouse see the error of his or her ways.
Every divorce is as unique as the couple who is going through it. If you are both ready, willing, and able to compromise, mediation without a divorce lawyer representing you may be a great option. Mediation can save time, expense, and heartache. But if any of these six warning signs resonate with you, it’s time to consult with a dedicated California divorce lawyer.