When a person gets to the point where they are considering getting divorced, they are typically in an extremely stressful situation.  No matter the issues causing a person to get to that point, there is also an overwhelming feeling of uncertainty and insecurity about the what happens next and about the future that significantly adds to the anxiety. It is like getting into a lifeboat, which offers the flight from a negative situation, but the uncertainties of leaving the ship can be enormous.

In the customary type of divorce one person usually seeks legal counsel. They then typically pay somewhere between two and three thousand dollars as a retainer to begin the divorce process, at which time they become the Petitioner/Plaintiff.  Part of this process is the other party gets physically served the initial divorce papers by a process server, and frequently they are blindsided when this happens.  At this time, they become the Respondent/Defendant and are nearly forced to get their own separate legal counsel and pay them another two to three thousand dollars as a retainer to defend them in the divorce.

Let’s stop for just a moment and reflect about the above scenario.  Four to six thousand dollars have been paid out in retainers, both parties have their own legal counsel and nothing has been decided.  Not to mention the additional stress and anxiety that has been added to an already tense situation by one of the parties getting served divorce papers, possibly at work or at home in front of the children.  Additionally, each attorney has been retained to win for their client, which sets the stage for someone to lose.  I am not at all meaning to demean or downplay the role of attorneys in the divorce process, but the fact is, their job is to take an adversarial role to the benefit of their client and in certain situations, this customary process is necessary.  However, the cost is more than monetary, as there is a time factor as well as an emotional cost to be considered. The more adversarial, the more it costs on all three fronts.  It is not uncommon that an adversarial divorce can take months or even years, with thousands of dollars spent by both parties. ‘The total cost of a divorce in Oklahoma typically ranges from $4,000.00 to $27,000.00 averaging $12,500.00 with the average attorney fees of $9,800.00; with children the average cost is $18,700.00.’ How do you think the relationship to co-parent a child or children begins in this scenario?

So, what is different about getting divorced through the Mediation process?  Foremost, mediation is voluntary, so both parties have to agree to participate. This does not mean that they agree on everything or anything for that matter, it only means both parties are willing to participate in the process.  It is not required for either party to have an attorney to participate in mediation, although we certainly conduct mediations involving attorneys as well.  That decision is up to the parties. The parties attend their mediation session together and in our case work with our co-mediators, a male/female team and there are no winners or losers. The mediation team does not represent either party, they are third party neutral and unbiassed. They do not and can not make any decisions for the parties, so they work to find objective common ground and sometimes help find creative solutions to each unique situation. There are three major areas addressed; division of assets and debts; child custody, visitation and a comprehensive co-parenting plan; and child support calculation.  Additionally, we will help you work through any other issue or dispute causing concern or may be the potential cause of tension, problems, misunderstandings or conflicts in the future.  It is all about bringing as much certainty to the future as possible, as the more detailed the plan the best chance for both parties to comply.  “Grey” areas are predictably the place where future issues creep in, so we work hard to remove as much of the grey areas as possible. Divorced parents go from being married parents to unmarried parents, so in essence you are now in business together as partners whose business is raising your child or children. The comprehensive plan is like your future business plan to keep you on track, with the principal benefactors being your child or children. The most successful businesses are the once with a good business plan. The same goes for co-parenting, the most successful are the ones with a good, solid and comprehensive plan.

In our next blog we will talk about next steps after a successful mediation, including the option to work with our attorney partner to file and finalize your divorce with the court.

Jeffrey M. Miller LL.M.

‘How Much Does Divorce Cost in Oklahoma?’; This data is from Martindale Nolo Research’s 2015 divorce sturdy, which analyzed survey responses from readers who had recently gone through a divorce and had researched hiring a lawyer. The names of the readers who submitted the quotes above have been changed to protect their privacy. To supplement their consumer survey results, Martindale Nolo Research interviewed experienced attorneys who specialize in divorce cases from its directory of over one million lawyers, including Arthur Abelson, Donna Baccarella, Joshua Carpenter, Patricia Powers-Simonelli and Susan Weaver. www.lawyers.com/legal-info/family-law/divorce/how-much-does-divorce-cost-in-oklahoma.html ; accessed 2/16/19