Stay out of court: Family mediators can help with much more than divorce issues. While we often think of using mediation for divorce, it is a less known fact that mediation can also be used to resolve many other family matters including prenuptial agreements, estate planning, couple relationship issues, HOA issues, as well as many other conflicts. Because of its cooperative process, mediation provides a faster, more peaceful and less expensive alternative to litigation.
A family mediator can provide help to couples before they marry with the drafting of prenuptial agreements. These agreements are becoming more popular as people marry later in life and bring assets into the relationship, and for couples with children from previous relationships in order to guarantee financial support for them in the event of a partner’s death. Prenuptial agreements that are traditionally drafted by attorneys can create an uneven balance of power between the partners. In contrast, mediation evens out the playing field. An experienced family mediator can teach couples how to discuss and resolve difficult situations. He/she will encourage clear communication, collaboration and respect, something all couples can benefit from at the beginning of their marriage. Because mediators have a lot of experience working with divorcing couples, they are well suited to help new couples by offering them advice on how to avoid the pitfalls of a bad relationship.
Mediation can also be very helpful when it comes to estate planning, which is the complicated process involving the older generation passing on its wealth to the younger generation. Unfortunately it can be the source of many disagreements, as parents don’t always involve their heirs in the discussion, assuming they will be pleased with the estate gifts they receive. This can lead to families disputing the estate plan after the death of a parent, with family members suing one another in court. When day-to-day communications are a challenge for a family, conversations about estate planning can be very difficult and painful to handle. An experienced family mediator can help family members make important decisions while everybody is alive and avoid conflicts in the future. Mediation helps families create a realistic and fair estate plan that makes sense for the whole family. Mediation can help with all aspects of estate planning, including wills and trusts, child guardianship, healthcare directives, family business succession, real estate planning and probate avoidance.
Couples who experience difficulties in their marriage may also want to enlist the help of a mediator before considering divorce. Mediation can help partners who believe there is an opportunity to rebuild the relationship work on reconciliation. The reconciliation process consists of meetings organized in several steps. First, the mediator usually starts by talking with each spouse individually, to listen and understand one spouse’s perspective. Once the mediator has gathered a list of problems from both sides, he/she meets with both spouses to initiate conversations and introduce productive communication strategies to solve existing conflicts. Throughout the reconciliation process, the mediator remains neutral and encourages the couple to work together. Sometimes the mediator may suggest a trial separation, providing both spouses with space and reducing daily conflict. This gives spouses an opportunity to find themselves again, experience what life after divorce would be, and consider if that really is what they want.
Finally, a mediator can offer help long after the divorce is final. As individual circumstances change down the road (e.g. changes in income, employment or schedule, issues with child welfare and wellbeing, home location, remarriage, etc.), former couples sometimes need their previous order on spousal support (alimony), child support, and child custody and visitation schedule modified. Preserving healthy communications between ex-spouses and/or family members via mediation can help solve many problems in a prompt and civil manner, without ever having to resort to litigation.
To find out if mediation is for you, complete our request for a free online evaluation at www.afairway.com; and to receive a free 30-minute phone consultation, call