Divorce After 50 Mediation Can Help
Tuesday, December, 18, 2012
According to Sally Abrahms co-author of What Every Woman Should Know About Divorce and Custody, the divorce rate for those over 50 has doubled. Jay Lebow, a psychologist at the Family Institute atNorthwesternUniversity, says, “If late-life divorce were a disease, it would be an epidemic.”
When couples separate, the traditional method was for each spouse to hire an attorney and begin the arduous and emotionally charged process of deciding who gets what. The question of how assets are to be divided can be quite contentious and are over savings accounts, investments, furniture, family heirlooms and frequently there are pets involved. I can assure you that the intensity of feelings concerning pets is more often than not at the same or higher level than when children are involved.
The good news is that inNorth Carolinamediation is required before a divorce case can go into court. This all started in the middle 90’s when it was decided to formalize a process to settle cases prior to court dates.
The advantages of mediation over trials in a courtroom are many, not the least of which is that no decisions are made by a judge or a jury. In mediation, no conclusions are reached except by the parties themselves. If, however, no settlement can be reached in mediation, the parties’ right to be heard in court still exists.
Since mediation is required in court cases, many parties are electing to hire mediators early in the process to see if a settlement can be reached reasonably quickly, thus saving many dollars that would otherwise go to attorneys. Typical divorce costs frequently can run two to ten times higher than mediation costs and this does not include “emotional cost” which mediators try very hard to keep at a very low level by encouraging dialogue between each party and fostering a spirit of cooperation versus conflict. Please keep in mind, though, that mediation and mediators are not substitutes for qualified legal help. In fact, even though a mediator will normally create a Memorandum of Agreement between parties, this agreement should be reviewed by legal counsel. If counsel approves the document then he will then have the parties sign the agreement and it becomes an enforceable document.
Sometimes, though, mediation is not the best answer, but it’s pretty easy to find out if it offers good possibilities. The majority of the mediators with whom I am familiar offer a no cost two hour initial consultation. Even if the initial consultation is not free, it is still a low cost way to determine if mediation is appropriate. North Carolinamaintains a list of available mediators and that list can be found by going to www.ncdrc.org. The list also has each mediator’s qualifications for your evaluation.
One other consideration when separation is being contemplated is the issue of Social Security benefits which can be a complicated issue. If you are not sure of what may happen to your Social Security benefits in the event of divorce call 1-800-772-1213or go to www.aarp.org/work/social-security.