There are a lot of reasons you may wish to mediate your divorce or custody case, rather than hire an attorney, but the #1 reason is simply to avoid going to court. There is a perception that going in front of a judge will being your comeuppance. It will show the world how horrible your spouse has been to you. You will finally be heard! I contend that in fact the opposite is much more the reality.
Today, I had the experience of going to court as a litigant. And it was horrible. I received a speeding ticket several months ago, and rather than pay the ticket, I decided to fight it in court. My experience with small matters as such is that usually they are dismissed. The officer won’t appear or there won’t be a judge able to hear the matter or discovery won’t have been exchanged. I expected a quick and easy dismissal. However, when I logged into my Zoom hearing today, there was a room full of people. I immediately recognized each party to the event, the judge, the officer who ticketed me and the court monitor who would record the event. And me . . . There would be no quick and easy dismissal today.
I immediately started sweating. I was worried about the hoody I was wearing. I was terrified about what I was going to say (and I’m an attorney!). I wasn’t prepared. I couldn’t believe this was happening. All over a $100 speeding ticket. I quickly regrouped, and prepared a cross examination for the officer, but quickly realized how I unprepared I really was. I lost the hearing and was ordered to pay the ticket. But it quickly got me thinking about how terrifying it must be for unrepresented parties to go to court, especially when the stakes are so much higher. Imagine if I was having to argue for custody of my children or for the right to retain my house. And imagine further if my spouse had an attorney and I did not.
This is why I recommend mediation for all of my clients. And, this is in fact why I left my litigation firm to start a mediation-only practice. I really wanted to argue how unfair this speed zone really was and I how I was actually driving so carefully in this area which is near my children’s school, but I knew these were not arguments that the judge would consider, because they were about fairness which the court rarely considers. And it reminded me of the values of mediation.
Even with an attorney at your side, you will never get to focus on the fairness of the process. Nor will you ever get the satisfaction of the judge scolding your spouse in front of everyone in open court. That is the stuff of movies and nowhere based in reality. The reality of court is cost, and fear and surprise and disappointment. Mediation provides a venue to actually discuss how you were wronged and how unfair this process has actually been. You can righteously express your anger and actually be heard. If ever there was a reason for mediation, it was shown to me today in open court. I don’t wish to face that ever again.