Thursday, February 21, 2008

What Are My Rights?

The most common question we are asked when a potential client telephones us about divorce mediation is "What are my rights?" It happened again this week. Obviously this reflects anxiety about the fear of the unknowns of divorce. This question is usually followed by the questions, "How much alimony must I pay or how much alimony will I get?" Clients want to be reassured that they will be financially ok. As mediators, we can not advise a person of his or her rights and maintain our neutrality. We tell him or her we have the answer to the question but if we answered it we would no longer be neutral. Although we don’t answer the question we advise the client it would be helpful if he or she either seeks review counsel or the person and his or her spouse come in to see us together. We usually advise the person that if he or she seeks professional help he or she will not be financially devastated by the divorce. However, as the fixed cost being divorce are higher than the fixed cost of marriage and the amount of money available will be about the same, both parties will have less money to work with and will have a reduced life style. The party is not always satisfied with this answer. The person must decide whether they want a validation of his or her own opinion or want a truthful opinion. Parties should be aware of an attorney telling them what he or she wants to hear in order to get the case. There are no guaranteed results in a divorce case. We often in jest suggest the party get a written guarantee from the person advising them which includes the advisor paying if the person does not get what the advisor said the person would get. The results are even less predictable when a case goes to trial and a judge decides. There may be a range of results which are acceptable or a worse case and best case scenario but every case is a role of the dice. Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know. In divorce mediation the couple maintains control and decides their our results. This is safer and more satisfying. There is also what I call the peace benefit. The couple is better able to resolve problems in the future with out the help of a third party. What are your rights? It may be up to you. As always, you can post a comment by following the directions at the right in the green column or at the bottom of this website. WM 2/21/08

No comments: