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Making Nice in a Divorce

After 35 years of marriage, Michael and Susan called it quits last summer. The San Diego couple’s irreconcilable differences, however, did not end up in an ugly court battle. The two followed in the legal footsteps of a growing number of divorcing couples—they went to a mediator to get it over with.

Instead of spending the average of $17,000 each on divorce, they dissolved their marriage for less than $5,000. And instead of an average two years in court, it took a few months to get the final decree. End result as far as they are concerned: marriage over, minus the extra pain and expense they’ve seen too many friends go through. “We were both looking to minimize the drain on our resources to maximize the amount we were going to split,” Michael says.

The San Diego Mediation Center they went to is a private, nonprofit corporation that provides alternative dispute resolution. The trained, experienced mediators are practicing family law attorneys who act as impartial third parties. The goal of the mediators is to help divorcing couples come up with their own agreement without the more forceful and emotional legal hammers often used in courtrooms. In the center’s seven years of offering the service, more than 1,000 San Diego couples have opted for the mediation route.

“There are legal, financial and emotional issues that are parts of the dissolution of a marriage,” says Robin Duboe Seigle, administrator of divorce mediation services at the center. Seigle says mediation requires involvement and active participation.
 
“The idea of mediation is to have people take more responsibility for themselves instead of having someone do it for them.”

That means sitting across the table from each other to work out who gets what—with some help from the mediator—without whatever tensions led to the divorce in the first place. “Divorces should be as amicable as possible,” Susan says.

“I think we both ended the process feeling that it was fair and reasonable,” Michael says.

Info: 619-238-2400 or www.sdmediate.com.

—Lena Warmack
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