Divorce or Mediation: Which is better?

The decision to choose between divorce or mediation is one that requires a lot of thought before the process begins. Many couples consider mediation as a friendlier, more cooperative and constructive alternative for divorce. Some find that counseling leads them back together and in a better place; however, many couples may be at a different place when they finally seek outside resources. Deciding whether or not pursue divorce or mediation requires insight into the past, present and future of your marriage.

The first point to touch on should be to explain briefly the divorce process in Pennsylvania. The initial filing of a divorce complaint will include one or both counts for a 3301(c) divorce and/or 3301(d). The court may grant a divorce based upon 3301(c) which means mutual consent to dissolve the marriage and that 90 days have elapsed since commencement of the action, known as the “cooling off” period.

Many divorce attorneys will also file under 3301(d) Irretrievable breakdown, which is the ground that the parties have been separated for two years. This requires the subsequent filing of affidavits that attest to the fact that both parties agree they have been living separate and apart for at least two years.

Beyond this paperwork is the eventual division of assets and liabilities. Pennsylvania is an equitable distribution state as opposed to the “50/50” states, where marital property is split in half with little discussion of who is more/less entitled to the item. This leaves more discussions to be had and more analysis of the marital estate. Parties are able to negotiate certain aspects of their marital settlement agreement or MSA which gets filed at the end of the divorce as part of the Notice of Intent and Praecipe to Transmit the Record (which is reviewed by the judge who ultimately enters the order for divorce).

Having a lawyer means a sturdy guide to walk you through this process and handle all of the dirty work – i.e., filing documents before legal deadlines, speaking with the other party or the opposing counsel about the MSA, and maintaining records. A lawyer does not always mean the process is confrontational or difficult – it is the nature of the relationship that reflects on how your attorney will have to handle the case. Additionally, an attorney who is a Certified Divorce Financial Specialist can provide the knowledge of financial resources to better assist couples in dividing their marital estate. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Michael Kuldiner, P.C. have this training to best assist clients in understanding how their financial lives will be affected by divorce.

Which leads us to mediation. Divorce mediation is a recent evolution of the divorce process that is intended to remove the adversarial element from divorcing. Instead of communicating through attorneys and the courts, the mediator is there to take in both sides’ wants and needs. Different types of professionals can be mediators and the goal is to keep the peace while fully assessing what the family needs to make the transition.

While research is still emerging on this new approach, many cases do ultimately result in getting a divorce lawyer. This can be for many reasons but the underlying theme is that divorce can be an extremely difficult process. Cheating, lying, secrecy and other factors can destroy mediation.

In deciding to choose between divorce or mediation, the best approach is to be as decisive as possible; meaning, decide on what you want before hiring professionals. Do you want to be divorced? Or is there a gray area? Certainly there will be some major conflicts in your mind before making a move. Really delve into what you are questioning and talk to your spouse as much as possible. Mediation can work for those who are able to communicate and focus on a shared goal – if you and your spouse are not in a place for amicable discussion, hiring a lawyer will ensure your rights are protected.

If you are considering divorce or have been through an unsuccessful mediation, call our office to speak with an experienced Bucks County divorce lawyer. Call (215) 693-6191 to schedule a consultation or submit an online inquiry form.