Family Mediation or Divorce Court?
According to a recent Bank of Montreal InvestorLine study, the average cost of a wedding in Canada hovers around $31,110, honeymoon not included. Once the price of raising children is factored in, estimated at over $200,000 per child (don’t forget college or university education!), the cost of starting a family can be extremely high.
While no one marries expecting to get divorced, it is a reality for about four in ten Canadians. After spending all of that money on an extravagant wedding to start off the marriage, it can be nauseating to think of spending tens of thousands more just to end it. Yet, far too many Canadians are doing exactly that by hiring combative lawyers who will fight to the death in court to “get the client what they deserve”.
The average cost of a contested divorce in Canada is over $27,000, and the average cost of a divorce going to trial is between $45,000 and $65,000, depending on the length of the trial.
The expenses in these types of divorce cases are worse because spending money to fight, investigate, and argue costs more than working things out peacefully. Conflict costs more than harmony, simply put. Not to mention, people often overlook “hidden” divorce expenses like the cost to sell a home or refinance a mortgage, as well as the added expenses associated with moving from one house to two.
Lost amidst the conflict and the “I win, you lose” mentality of the courts is the fact that there is another divorce process that can help keep expenses in check. The average Family Mediation costs about $2,000 to $5,000 per spouse, depending on how much involvement you want from lawyers. Family Mediation costs significantly less than going to court for a number of reasons:
Family Mediation is informal and streamlined
When you enter the court process, you do not immediately proceed to the trial. Instead, there are case conferences, settlement conferences, mandatory meetings, and trial management conferences all designed to convince you to reach an agreement with your spouse before you have your day in court. Each of these court interactions costs you time and money.
The formal procedures of the court process require your lawyer to do more work, adding to your cost in the form of billable hours. In addition, courts are slow-moving, partly designed to encourage parties to settle but also due to an adherence to tradition.
Family Mediation, on the other hand, is an informal process requiring no interaction with the court. There are no procedural obstacles to overcome before you can reach an agreement. You and your spouse can sit down and sort out the dispute as quickly as you are willing to. Less formality and a faster process leads to fewer overall costs.
Family Mediation reduces conflict and uncertainty
Divorce is a stressful process, but going to court can make the conflict much worse. The adversarial “I win, you lose” nature of the court leads to both parties demeaning the other to get their points across.
In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to stray from the real issues and focus on the perceived flaws of the other spouse. Your children end up getting caught in the battle and suffer as conflict intensifies.
Family Mediation does not require you to tear down your spouse in order to build your case, which generally means less anger and acrimony. You have the opportunity to work out mutually satisfactory solutions in a calm environment, focusing on the future needs of your family.
Court also takes an emotional toll on you due to its uncertainty. When you go to court, you give up decision-making authority to a judge. The judge can rule in one of three ways: For you, against you, or for neither of you. Only one of these options benefits you. Family Mediation allows you to control the process and the result. You are the ultimate decision-maker and you are responsible for the final outcome.
Family Mediations allows you to take control, rather than the lawyers
Obviously, you pay for every moment your lawyer spends in court. However, you also pay for every document they write, every letter they send, and even every email they read. Lawyers can be an effective tool for certain jobs, but they are extremely expensive if you insist on using them for everything.
In contrast, Family Mediation encourages you and your spouse to take control of the process and negotiate yourselves. The mediator will help you to navigate the hurdles that crop up, but you make the major decisions.
If you need a lawyer, utilize them on an as-needed basis for the most difficult problems, rather than keeping them on speed dial. You’ll keep costs down by keeping lawyers out of the day-to-day management.
What It Means When Your Spouse Suggests Mediation
- Mediation is typically cheaper than lawyers or the courts
- Mediation tends to be the faster divorce process
- The courts will require you to consider mediation first
- Mediation has an excellent success rate