Along For the Ride - Taking Control Through Mediation

A recent article in California Lawyer Magazine was entitled “Along for the Ride”. It explored the legal and ethical issues of punishing those who were only peripherally involved in the commission of a crime.

For instance, you agree to be the designated driver when you and your new friend go nightclubbing. On the way there she asks you to stop at a liquor store so she can buy some chewing gum. You’re parked outside with the motor running and the radio playing loud, a minute later she runs back into the car and says, “Let’s go”! When the police arrest you 15 minutes later because a video surveillance camera gave them your license plates while your girlfriend went inside to shoot the clerk and empty the cash register, it sounds pretty lame to say “I didn’t know what she had planned!”

Happens all the time, I am told. Glad it’s not my job to defend those poor hapless dopes who find themselves facing trial as accessories to murder for being in the wrong place at the wrong time in the company of the wrong people.

The article did get me thinking. Many times a couple will present in my office for a consultation on the “big picture” of marital dissolution and how it can be most effectively achieved. When, after my discourse, I ask if there are any questions, one of them will kind of shrug and say words to the effect, “whatever she [or he] wants”. Clearly, this individual is, at this stage, “along for the ride”.

It is true that California, as a “no-fault” dissolution state, only requires one member of the marriage to declare that irreconcilable differences have arisen causing the irremediable breakdown of the marriage. This means that there is no need to present evidence and prove “grounds” for divorce. So at least in California, no lawyers are busy preparing their case based on “mental cruelty”. We should all be grateful for that.

However, the mere fact that only one party to the marriage wants out, does not mean that both members of the marriage do not need to be mindful of the process and keenly aware of their rights and obligations throughout the dissolution.

It has been our experience, here at Liaise, that a thoughtful mediation process does wonders in making both parties take a considered look at the procedure and begin a purposeful participation that vests both sides in the creation of a comprehensive Marital Settlement Agreement.

What may have started with one side merely going through the motions as a passive participant rapidly develops into a dialog where Husband and Wife engage in a give and take that results in an Agreement that each rightfully feels as if they had a hand in creating. This creates a more enduring Agreement and well earned feeling of self-direction in the dissolution process.

When I compare and contrast the mediation experience with the litigated dissolution experience, I feel very sorry for the people who took the old fashioned contested path to divorce.

Do yourself, your family, and your financial well being a favor and choose Liaise Divorce Solutions to help you navigate the treacherous waters of ending your marriage.

David D. Stein has been an San Francisco Divorce Mediator Attorney for over 20 years and the founder of Liaise® Mediated Solutions. He is a trained mediator, dispute resolution specialist and lecturer on non-violent conflict management techniques and tools.