The March 2011 issue of the Michigan Family Law Journal features an article by Carole Chiamp, a Detroit mediator and attorney, that compares the outcomes of 400 divorce cases; half of which were mediatied and the other half litigated.
There are several useful conclusions for you to take from the article, especially if you’re considering mediation but believe that taking a hard position in a contested court fight will better protect your rights and get you more.
First, there was no significant difference in the amount of spousal support (alimony) awarded. If that’s so, then both parties came out ahead. Neither of them wastes time, money, and stress fighting over something that’s going to come out the same whether there’s a fight or not.
Second, child support was higher in mediated cases. This sounds like a loser for the paying parent. Not so. Usually this means that there is a higher probability of a stronger long term relationship between the payer and the children, and with greater stability for them, since there will be fewer battles over non-payment. Most importantly, since the payer willingly agreed to the amount, then he/she will not harbor grudges about the payment being shoved down their throats by a biased judge.
Third, child custody issues were settled about the same, usually involving joint custody, and the outcome was reached without that expensive battle and stress.
Fourth, the childrren had a 2 1/2 times greater chance of getting support for their college education than if it was left up to a judge to decide. (10% in litigated cases vs. 26% in mediated cases). Think of it this way, the higher your children’s education level, the greater the chance they’ll be able to support you in your old age. Remember, your kids pick your nursing home, so try to stay on good terms with them.
Fifth, there are fewer post-judgment battles. Talk to your friends who’ve had nasty divorces. I guarantee you’ll hear lots of stories about constantly going back to court to get their alimony and child support payments or fighting just to get to see their kids at all.
Obviously if the outcomes are essentially the same, then mediation is the better way to go. You spend less money on the process. You are more satisfied with the outcome, which reduces your long term stress. It takes less time, about six months with kids versus ten months for litigation. And there is far less chance you’ll ever see the inside of that courthouse again.
Special thanks to Carole Chiamp for her excellent article.