Divorce Mediation; Alternatives to Litigation; And Solution Oriented Negotiations in Divorce

Bryan L. Salamone & Associates, P.C. have handled divorce mediation for more than a decade.  We have handled over 18,000 divorces as divorce litigators, however, recent years and the economy has taught us that many people are seeking an alternative to expensive lengthy courtroom battles.  We offer such alternatives.  

Divorce Mediation

Divorce Mediation is only recommended for approximately 10% to 15% of the divorces in New York.  Divorce Mediation is not so much a “back and forth” as it is a process that assists couples in forming a resolution to their problems. 

As a mediator, both sides are asked questions during the mediation process.  It is not what the mediator says but the fact that the mediator listens and offers possible solutions and ideas to the couple to help them form their own agreement.  Helping a couple reach an agreement is the very essence of mediation.

If there is any single issue that the couple cannot agree on: money; custody; support or the disposition of any of the assets, there may be other alternatives that will end up being less costly then mediation.  Indeed, we have had the unpleasant experience seeing a couple go through 5 through 10 mediation sessions negotiating and talking (until they are blue in the face over child support), just to end the process with no result.  The couple is frustrated because the mediator cannot come down on one side or the other. In these situations four way settlements in divorce are the most economical avenue.  

Four-Way Settlement of Divorce Cases

In certain cases where mediators will simply be offering solutions to a couple that may or may not believe in these solutions , sometimes couples will take the mediated agreement and bring it to a separate lawyer.  This is not cost effective and it is contraindicated to the spirit of the mediation. 

In many instances two things are needed:

  1. Sometimes parties in a marriage need someone on their side to tell them what is in their best interest before they enter into an agreement.
  2. Sometimes the parties need a deadline imposed upon them to make decisions and to sign the agreement. 

 With respect to item #1, if a divorce is started by one party (assume it is the wife as women are 70% more likely to start a divorce), the husband will then receive the summons.  The wife’s lawyer could tell the husband to obtain an attorney and then the four of them (the wife and her lawyer; the husband and his lawyer) should sit in a room and try to resolve differences.  This is highly effective and more likely to succeed then a mediation.  In these cases, the wife’s attorney can take her out of the room and explain things to her.  In these cases, the husband’s attorney may take him out the room and explain his options to him. This works.

With respect to timelines being imposed and the suggestions of a Judge, this is more than valuable: it is gold.  When a divorce is started, assuming by the wife’s attorney, there are timelines and guidelines.  In the event that the husband and his attorney (or the wife and her attorney) fail to cooperate; show up for meetings; fail to work towards a settlement; then a preliminary conference can be ordered by the Court.  These are very friendly and amicable conferences.  The Courts have bent backwards to make these “people friendly”.  The Judge often comes to the bench and addresses the parties. The Judge often begs the parties to work together towards the best interest of the children or to work together to settle their own disputes rather than have the judge settle it. These are “pep talks” done by someone by experience.  The parties prospective attorneys than can, right in the courthouse, take the parties and attempt to settle their cases.

If there is one issue that is bothering the parties, for example: the value of a doctor’s practice; the disposition of the home; the value of one spouse’s separate property; the parties can use the conference with the Court to discuss this matter with the Judge.  Judges will often give advice.  This is worth gold. In some cases, the court appoints someone to simply evaluate the value of a business or a home and the valuation is often non-negotiable.  In over 20 years of matrimonial practice we have never seen an evaluator who can be bought or who is unethical.  They simply do the best job they can and they report to the Court.  The Court believes in these evaluation companies.  Therefore, by going to the Court in a simple 1 through 2 hour conference the parties can have a deadline imposed; a pep talk from the Judge; and have the matter evaluated for a low price from someone who the Court feels is fair. 

These conferences result in a settlement more than 90%  of the time.

Conclusion

Only 10% through 15% of the cases are really appropriate for mediation and the other 85% of the cases should try a four way settlement conference before the first court appearance and, if a court appearance is necessary, immediately thereafter.  Almost 90% of all the divorce cases can be settled after one simple court conference and a brief meeting with the Judge.  Often mediation sessions are at the same hourly rate as divorce.  Often mediation sessions are prolonged or are numerous because people cannot agree to things without someone telling them whether they are getting a reasonable deal.

Life is filled with unhappy people who have had bad deals as a result of divorce settled by an inexperienced or cut rate mediator.  If you are married you may want someone “on your side”. Use our firm for mediation or divorce.

We highly suggest that if your case is not one that can be handled by mediation that you work with our seasoned matrimonial attorneys to settle the matter.

Our mediation rate as well as our divorce and litigation rate is $290.00 an hour.  No matter how complex the case (and we have had newsworthy highly complex and conflict cases) we will always remain $290.00 an hour and we highly recommend, as a solution to a litigated divorce, the settlement strategy employed by our firm and known as a “four way settlement”.  Once again, four way settlement is two lawyers and two clients in one room attempting to resolve issues and it is a settlement strategy that works.

Contact us for a free consultation and to learn more about reasonable alternatives to a courtroom battle. 

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