Keeping Your DIVORCE out of the COURTS “Mediations vs Litigation”

November 28, 2009

Keep Your DIVORCE of the COURT

By Kym Adams-Divorce Mediator and Legal Document Assistant

Helping Couples Help Themselves for over a Decade!

“Building Peace One Smile at a Time”

Mediation vs. Litigation

By Kym Adams Divorce Mediation Litigation
Average Cost $2,500 – $6,000 per couple and most of my clients share this fee equally saving MONEY $15,000 – $40,000 per spouse
How long it will take to get divorced You decide how long it will take to get divorced. You both are in control Lengthy negotiations, and court proceedings can take several years
Who decides the details of the divorce agreement You and your spouse work out details together, so that the things that are the most important to you will be in your agreement Lawyers and judges make decisions for you and your family
Who decide what’s best for your children You the Parents (not a judge-complete stranger) decide what’s best for your children Experts decide what’s best for your children
Lawyers used Primarily use only one lawyer. Retain two lawyers
Confidentiality All information remains confidential Courts keep your personal information

It is hard to imagine how this process will work when you have been embroiled in a conflict. Most divorcing couples tend to fall into the same fights over and over again — but that is why Kym Adams as a neutral third person can help.

Mediation is a process used for resolving conflict. As your mediator, I can help you move through the issues and find new ground for resolution.  Most of my clients come to mediation because they want to avoid having multiple third-party professionals involved in their divorce.

I am neutral. I won’t take sides with you against your spouse, or with your spouse against you. Instead, I will work with you to increase your understanding of each other and of your conflict. I will not make decisions for you — only you will decide what is best for your future.

Conflict is painful. Most people have a drive to resolve it. When people understand the sources of conflict, there is a huge release of creative energy which leads to terrific brainstorming sessions about how to solve the problem and end the conflict.

I begin work with people by identifying all of the unresolved issues. I have a detailed checklist that we go through to identify where there is already agreement, and where we need additional information and/or discussion. Each person gets to tell me his/her side of the story, so that I can hear as much as possible about why you came to see me. I give each person a pad of paper and a pen so that the other person can write down their ideas without having to interrupt the speaker. During our sessions, we can discuss the options, pros and cons, and the role that you and your spouse would like attorneys to have in your divorce. For example, once an agreement is drafted one or both may chose to have it reviewed by an attorney.  I can provide referrals to Family Law attorneys that specialize in this area of law.

Once all the issues are on the table, together we can dive deeper into different points to gain an increased understanding. When that understanding is there, problem solving begins.

As you and your spouse agree, I will begin to draft a Mediator’s Agreement based on want your spouse have agreed upon.

Finally, after the mediation process is completed and if appropriate, as a Legal Document Preparer, I can prepare the forms for the court and file for your divorce. The beauty is neither one of you will never have to step one foot in court. “Keeping you and your spouse’s DIVORE out of COURT”

For more information visit my websites

Call today for a Free Divorce Mediation Consultation


Kym Adams, your personal Divorce Mediator and LDA


Breaking up should not be hard to do!

November 8, 2009

Divorce should not have to be Ugly

The crippling consequences of an ugly divorce are instigated by spite, greed, and revenge. When dirty dealings on the part of one spouse incite the other to retaliate, then the tempest escalates, keeping the family embroiled in controversy that often continues long after the divorce is finalized. I know because I lived an ugly divorce with two little boys trapped in the middle.  In 1989,before I remarried, no one spoke of a friendly divorce–a few barely civil ones but mostly nasty ones.  It was 1986 when our divorce papers were filed and it took my ex-husband and I over a decade to finally come to our senses and choose to work together mediating our issues that had been a battle every time we went to court.  The sad part is that our two boys breathed the venom of our parental hostility. So many allegations were said that were not true and only said out of spite and revenge. It was the worst ten years of our lives.

It has been years since the divorce unfolded and both my ex-husband and I have made the full circle.  One day, I picked up the phone and called him and told him I was tired of fighting and could we sit down and talk. Many apologies were said and since that day back in 1996 was a day I will never ever forget.

Now years later, my ex-husband, his wife, me, my husband and our children hang out together and get along wonderfully. With weddings we have all have gracious in family matters that call for cordial cooperation.  Life is too short for it to be otherwise. It is so important to our children and looking back now I wish that we could had worked together to dissolve all the marital issues.  But, time can’t be turned back and all I can do is share my experience with others letting them know that using mediation as an alternative dispute resolution is the much better path to choose because divorce does not have to rear its ugly head and breaking up should not be hard to do!

Being consumed for many years in the family law adversary proceedings and then choosing alternative dispute resolution is what has brought me to the place I am today in my life as a legal document assistant and divorce mediator. Helping divorcing couples for the past decade working together one step, one day and one smile at a time to happier place in their lives.  I can’t tell you how many times that a couple as had a consultation with me but, still doesn’t get it and ends up retaining attorneys spending a ton of money and then months or a year later with no resolution, their credit cards maxed out and calling me for another appointment to assist them with their marital agreement and judgment documents. They tell me “Kym we should have listened to you the first time we came in”. I just listen and say “You’re here now together so let me help the both of you  move forward and finally work out an agreement”.   I can tell you that they hang on tight too and I have the Thank You cards in my lobby to prove it.

This is what I have seen:
Unsuspecting spouses who are dumped without warning feel entitled to self-righteous rage. You are devastated–in shock–when a rude process server suddenly appears at your work or home doorstep one day or night to serve you the dreaded divorce papers. The experience of rejection is akin to being tossed naked into the gates of hell.  Regrettably, revenge can spawn more trouble than you ever bargained for.  Recently, I had a client who had been rejected told me, “This is an insult. What does she expect–that I’m not going to fight back?”  Needless to say, that was my open door. “Thank you very much Mr. Client” I quickly, educated him on Mediation 101 and how the court system can be very ugly, mentally, draining, all public record and financially draining! In addition, I told him, “No one comes out a winner when battling all the marital issues in court and divorce does not have to be an ugly thing” Couples walked into a marriage with their head high full of the love and wonder of a bright marital future, usually as mature adults and in control. Therefore, if the marriage goes bad and can’t be mended then walk out of the relationship in the same manner, ending up with no grey hair, no high blood pressure, no black clouds, no wonder if it will ever end, and money in your pocket that could go towards the children college. Please, don’t get me wrong either because it is not all roses and happy happy. Yes, it can get a bit intense going back into the past and expressing the hurt that has built up for years.  However, it is by far one hundred times less stressful then how a couple would feel in consumed in the adversary divorce proceeding. Believe, I know remember I lived it!

Predictors of an Ugly Divorce

The 10 most common behaviors that incite retaliation and precipitate an ugly divorce follow:

  1. Stay suspicious of your mate and expect the worst possible outcome–and you are likely to get it.
  2. Blame your spouse–your mortal enemy–but not yourself.
  3. Accept no responsibility for the demise of your marriage.
  4. Remain defensive, inflexible and controlling.
  5. Insist on winning every argument at all costs.
  6. Be unwilling to cooperate with your soon-to-be ex.
  7. Refuse to communicate with your spouse.
  8. Talk only through your lawyer and remain inaccessible.
  9. Seek to punish and get revenge.

10. Get embroiled in a custody battle.

When couples operate within the margins of heated antagonism, how can there be any hope for a good divorce?

Good Divorce: Parting as Friends A Good Choice!

I know that the idea of parting as friends is not for every divorcing couple. Although, I wish it could be but, I understand that that some people want to nurse their wounds and keep an ocean of distance between them and their exes spouses.  I respect their wishes but, in the process shouldn’t have to cause hurtful gashes within the spirit, heart and soul.

The effort it takes for you and your spouse to be civil surely makes the divorce transition and recovery a merciful one. To be conciliatory is to lay rancor aside and spare your children and family unnecessary grief that drama can bring.

A good divorce can be yours if you and your soon-to-be ex are inspired to use common sense and treat one another with common decency.

Why Use Mediation?

November 8, 2009

1.Why use mediation?

There are many reasons; the primary ones are: You can:


  • Save a significant amount of money.
  • Reduce anger and bitterness.
  • Allow the divorcing couple to make their own decisions.
  • Create a cooperative atmosphere, clarify the issues between spouses, foster clear communication, and keep emotional tension separate from financial decisions.
  • Acquire vital information, including legal, financial, and parenting information.
  • Receive a fair settlement.

2. At what point should you use mediation?

As early as possible. It is best to start mediation before the actual physical separation rather than waiting because the mediator can help separating individuals make good decisions. For example, a mediator can help create a good temporary parenting arrangement, calculate the amount of child support, and assist in determining responsibility for the payment of rent or mortgage.

3.How do you choose a mediator?

Carefully. The success of your mediation will be greatly affected by your choice of this professional.

Before hiring the mediator, consider the kind of information you will want to know about this person. On the telephone or during the initial session, you may want to ask the following questions:

    • a. Divorce law
      b. Parenting plans
      c. Financial issues of divorce
      d. Tax consequences of settlement
      e. Other matters of divorce (pensions, life insurance, etc.)


  • 1.What issues do you mediate?
    2.What percent of your practice is devoted to mediation?
    3.Are you certified? By which organizations?
    4.Do you belong to a professional association of mediators? If you do, does this group have required or voluntary standards? If it does, are you committed to these standards?
    5.Do you have another professional practice? If so, what is it?
    6.What mediation training have you had?
    7.How many mediations have you done?
    8. What is your experience /knowledge in:

    9.Will we have confidentiality during the session?
    10.What is the average number of sessions that we will attend?
    11.How much do you charge? Is there a separate charge for services such as telephone calls and the final document?

4.How much does mediation cost?

Mediation rates vary, the same as does the cost range of other professionals, and an average mediation involves approximately ten hours of face-to-face sessions plus the cost of the final divorce document. If the mediator is charging a fee of $150.00 per hour, ten hours would cost $1,500.00, plus approximately $500.00 for the document, for a total cost for both people of $2,000.00. This cost is significantly less than the cost for an attorney-assisted divorce.

5.How long does it take?

Mediation is concerned with the negotiating phase of divorce. The mediation period generally takes six to twelve weeks, though it may take more time or less because of the particulars or anger of the individuals involved. An adversarial divorce takes more in the nature of six months to three years to arrive at a settlement. There is quite a difference in the span of time required for an adversarial versus a mediated divorce. In a mediated divorce, the length of time is determined by the couple, as the court does not intervene. In a court-litigated divorce, there are extreme examples, and many of you probably know situations where the divorce has taken years to obtain. I hope none of you will compare to the man recently described in an article in the American Bar journal who has spent the past twelve years actively pursuing his divorce. (In case you’re curious, he still isn’t divorced!)

There are several factors that influence how long it will take to reach a mediated divorce settlement. If the following factors apply, it will probably take longer than usual to work out your settlement:

One or both spouses:


  • Absolutely refuses to accept the end of the marriage.
  • Has a complex financial portfolio that includes such investments as limited partnerships and tax shelters.
  • Is having an affair with the spouse’s best friend, or an individual sure to cause more anger than usual.
  • Is self-employed, while the other spouse has absolutely no knowledge of the business.
  • Refuses to become informed about an important aspect of their divorce.
  • Is silent and does not take part in the mediation.
  • Is extremely hostile and verbally attacks the other.
  • Insists on full-time physical custody of their children for the parent’s own personal needs.
  • Has been ordered to mediation by a court after an unsuccessful court trial.People with the following characteristics will most likely have a shorter mediation:
  • The couple chooses mediation voluntarily.
  • Both have been emotionally healthy during their marriage and are in touch with how they feel.
  • Each person can separate his or her anger from the concrete issues that must be resolved.
  • Their angry feelings do not necessarily mean they seek revenge.
  • They want to make their own decisions.
  • Each is willing to learn new information.
  • They are willing to let go of the marital relationship.
  • One or both has some respect left for his/her spouse.
  • They are parents who want what is best for their children rather than what is best for themselves.

It is a couple’s attitudes that determine how long they will take to negotiate their settlement. Reasonable men and women will most likely have a fairly short period of negotiations. In all cases, mediated agreements are more efficiently reached than adversarial agreements.

6. Will a mediator make any decisions for us?

A mediator does not make decisions, if she does, she is actually an arbitrator or judge. Instead, a mediator does something which is more valuable-she helps the couple to make decisions that each knows is fair. This informed decision-making component is one reason why mediated agreements have a high compliance rate.

7. Won’t the mediator take sides?

No, a good mediator does not take sides. Remember that therapists have long counseled couples without “taking sides.” The ability to be impartial is the most important skill of the mediator, and is an important reason why people need to choose a competent mediator. A trained mediator is able to put his/her biases on hold in order to help the divorcing couple.

8.Why do you need a mediator to help?

There are two main reasons that make it close to impossible to mediate your own divorce settlement. First, the end of a significant relationship involves such intense emotional turmoil that it is difficult for two individuals to resolve issues fairly without professional assistance. Second, most individuals do not have the specific knowledge necessary for making informed decisions in divorce-related areas. For example, a couple may think that the pension in the husband’s name automatically belongs to him, not realizing that the law in their state considers pensions a marital asset. Or a spouse may attempt to waive rights to an asset without even knowing its value.

I have gotten calls from separated people who tell me, “We’ve already divided everything up and just want it formalized.” More often than not, the list was made by just one spouse, with the other spouse simply going along with the idea. In every case I have seen, the couple has left out at least one important area, such as future support modifications or real estate responsibilities. Frequently, there are serious omissions that, by law, must be included in a divorce agreement. There aren’t any statistics on these types of do-it-yourself settlements, but it is safe to say that uninformed decisions generally do not have good track records.

The kind of situations in which a couple may be able to negotiate their own divorce settlement tend to be cases in which the marriage was of minimal duration, there are no children, the spouses have comparable incomes, and they have minimal assets and liabilities. In addition, their negotiations will be less stressful if they have been separated for at least six months.

It is unrealistic to expect to work out a settlement with someone you are divorcing if any of the following apply to your situation: the duration of your marriage was four years or more, you have minor children, you own a house or any other real estate, you and your spouse have more than $50,000.00 in assets, only one spouse receives a paycheck, you have been separated for less than six months, you have a history of disagreeing or an inability to communicate with each other, or one spouse has significantly more financial knowledge than the other.

Mediation using the help of a neutral individual, is the closest process for a do-it-yourself divorce settlement as you are the ones making the decisions.

9.Does a mediator meet with the children?

Typically, the mediator does not meet with the children. Instead, the mediator meets with both parents in order to help the parents create a parenting arrangement which is in the best interests of the child. A knowledgeable mediator-one who is informed about the developmental stages of a child and specifically, how the crisis of separation and divorce affects a child-is invaluable in helping families create a post-divorce arrangement that will work because it takes in everyone’s concerns.

10.Is there any risk in using mediation?

As with any profession, if you have an incompetent professional, you will not have a successful service. In mediation, the specific risk of an incompetent mediator is that the less financially sophisticated person will probably end up with a bad deal, i.e. get less money and less than his or her fair share of marital assets.

Unfortunately every profession has its share of practitioners who are not skilled at what they do. Mediation is a relatively new profession and the small number of current mediators are highly skilled individuals, but as this field increases, it will most likely have the same problems as other professions in guaranteeing the quality of its practitioners. Your mediator is not well-skilled if he or she:

    1.Acts solely as a referee for the divorcing couple.
    2.Makes decisions for you.
    3.Takes the side of one person against the other.
    4.Is not knowledgeable about divorce laws, federal and state taxes, pension rulings, and all other issues of your agreement. The mediator does not need to know everything concerning each area (no one professional is an expert in every area), but the mediator should know when such information is necessary and how to get it.
    5.Has a bias that effects all decisions.
    6.Makes a financial contingency fee arrangement with you. Contingency means that the cost of the mediation depends on the settlement itself, such as five percent of the settlement. Mediation fees should be based on an hourly rate and not contingency arrangements.


11. Do you still need a lawyer?

“In early Greece, republican Rome and dynastic China there were rules against paid legal advice,” says Jerald Averbach, in his book Justice Without Law. Many separating individuals wish this was true today, fearing that lawyers will sabotage their mediated divorce settlement. Rarely does a mediator require a client to retain an attorney, however, the majority of mediators recommend that each client consult with a lawyer at some point during the mediation and certainly, prior to signing the divorce agreement.

It is amazing to me how many individuals will take an agreement to their attorney after it is signed-when it is too late-rather than before it is signed. The potential for difficulty may be minimized if legal advise is received during the mediation. During the mediation, a lawyer may provide ongoing advice in complicated legal situations. When a client picks up erroneous information (whether from well-meaning friends or TV programs), I often suggest that he consult with a lawyer to help serve as a reality tester. A client with an extremely unrealistic idea of his or her probable legal outcome, or one who refuses to understand the consequences of the choices they are making, may be helped by hearing a lawyer’s advice. Obviously, the lawyer’s attitude toward mediation is critical: the lawyer should be supportive of mediation as well as experienced in divorce work.

Some mediation clients hire consulting lawyers during mediation because they have legal work which they want done at the same time as the divorce, such as transferring real estate or writing a new will.

While it is unusual in private mediation to have lawyers present during the mediation sessions, it is common if one is using a court employee as a mediator.

Men and women in mediation make their own decisions; that is one of the strengths of the process. You may choose to use lawyers, and they may-indeed should-give advice, but you must take responsibility for the actions that result. When you give your decision-making power to someone else, it may feel good for the moment, but in the long run, people who do not take part in their own financial and personal decisions often live to regret it. Mediation provides a method to make your own decisions.

12. Will you get a better settlement if you go to court?

Occasionally someone asks me, “Won’t I get the entire house if I go to court and tell the judge what my husband did?” or “Wouldn’t the judge see that I shouldn’t have to pay that amount of child support to an ex-wife?” The men and women asking these questions have one characteristic in common-they have never appeared in a divorce court action. Men and women who have already been to court for a divorce know how unrealistic these questions are. They know that you rarely get a chance to tell your entire story in court and when you do get the opportunity to speak, the parts you think are essential often are not allowed into evidence. The court decision will most likely hinge on technical aspects that seem absurd to someone not versed in “the law.”

Most people go to court with one idea-they believe the judge will decide in their favor. Rarely have I met anyone wanting to go to court who assumes they are destined to lose. In some ways, it is a tribute to each person’s ability to convince themselves that “I will win once the judge hears what happened.” Unfortunately, this naive view of the judge as a kind fatherly protector may not be what awaits you in court.

The actual goals of the judge, in fact, may differ radically from yours. Many divorce court judges share the sentiment of one judge who says, “If I see each of them walking out of court with their head down and looking sad, then I figure I made a pretty good decision.” Since there is so much to lose, the court tries to see that neither side loses too badly.

The reality of a divorce court trial is that most litigants walk out of the courtroom feeling as if they have just been run over by a truck. Even the apparent winner rarely feels good. What looks like winning on the outside often doesn’t feel good either because the spouse feels entitled to much more than what the court awarded or because he or she feels guilty. The winner may also find his or her enthusiasm dampened by the warning they hear from their lawyer to prepare for the next round, when their soon-to-be-ex-spouse will surely appeal the judge’s decision. An appeal means another trial, more money, and, of course, the emotional trauma that seems to have no end.

There is another courtroom myth that dies hard, the myth that legal fees are paid for by the party who loses. In most divorce courts, this is simply not true. Whether you win or lose, you will most likely be picking up your lawyer’s tab.

Resolving your differences using Mediation

October 17, 2009

by Charles B. Parselle

This article borrows from Howard Gardner’s book, “Changing Minds” (2004).  In order to get people in conflict to cooperate or collaborate sufficiently to settle or resolve their differences, and perhaps achieve reconciliation, it is necessary that they change their minds.  The reason they are in dispute is because they are of two different minds about a particular thing, which is what they are fighting over.  People do not change their minds easily.  Some people are prepared to be burned at the stake, literally, rather than change their minds, or admit to a change of belief.  People cling to the artifacts of their own minds with great stubbornness. This is called resistance. When a mediator seeks to bring parties together, she will encounter resistance. If there were no resistance, if changing minds was easy, there would be no need for mediators.

Howard Gardner has identified six R’s, which are helpful in helping people to change their minds.  They are: reason, research, resonance, re-description, rewards and real world events.

Reason is employed by way of the use of argument in order to persuade.

Research is used in order to collect facts, also with the purpose of persuading, often a mediation is a conflict between competing facts.

Resonance appeals to the feeling part of the human personality.  Does a proposal feel right? Some people rely heavily upon resonance, and prefer it to a reasoned and researched position. Orators and advertisers seek a message that will resonate their audience.

Re-description can be profoundly effective.  Matters are often expressed in the negative, but when changed into a positive form of expression, convey a completely different and more attractive meaning.  Mediations are often a persistent attempt to re-describe the problem in order to make solutions seem more attractive.

Rewards are an important part of any negotiation, and are usually accompanied by penalties.  This is often known as the “stick and carrot” approach.

Real world events can have the effect of changing parties’ perceptions completely. Such events may be quite trivial, like going out for lunch. After lunch, what was said in the morning and rejected out of hand may, with the benefit of the simple event of several hours passing and a meal, seem much more attractive.

The ever-present problem of the mediator is that parties do not want to budge, but unless there is some change they start to get impatient. So the job of the mediator is to continue to make some progress, so that there is a perception of movement.  This is necessary in order to keep the parties at the negotiating table.  So it is helpful to the mediator to be able to play upon the six R’s, developing a facility with each one, in order to keep the parties going through the process in a productive way. Ultimately, the matter must be resolved, not by the mediator but by the parties themselves. The combined focused attention of their minds is what will accomplish the result that they have come to mediation to achieve.  The mediator, by using the six R’s, helps to maintain the process to its successful conclusion.