Custody and Divorce Mediation

Divorce mediation

Show Topic

This show aired on March 26, 2017. Attorney David Enevoldsen hosted guest and mediator Michael Aurit. The show reviews mediation, what mediation is, and how it can be a viable option for resolution of family law matters such as divorces or custody fights.

Guest Information

Guest Michael Aurit owns and operates The Aurit Center for Divorce Mediation, and can be reached at 480-378-2686 or through his website at www.auritmediation.com.

Headlines

Headlines on the show looked at the controversy over Tennessee Senator, Joey Hensley’s having an affair with his married second cousin, Nengmy Vang shooting his wife’s divorce attorney in Wisconsin, the push in Oklahoma’s legislature to impose fault in Oklahoma for divorce, and Mel B’s filing for divorce.

Transcript of the Show

KFNX:                        The discussions and information provided in Family Law Report are intended to be general in nature and are not directed for any individual circumstances. No attorney client relationship is being formed through this program. If you need legal advice, your particular circumstances can vary from what is presented here and you should seek the advice of an attorney licensed to practice in your state.

KFNX:                        Welcome to the Family Law Report, the show that explores issues related to marriage, divorce, and children. Hosted by David Enevoldsen, a practicing family law attorney in Arizona. Now, here’s your host.

David E.:                     Hello, everybody. Welcome to Family Law Report. I’m your host David Enevoldsen. I’m here with you every Sunday at noon on Independent Talk 1100 KFNX. Here on Family Law Report, we talk about all the current issues in family law, and that can range everything from what’s going on in the political arena to just working through some of the nuts and bolts of a divorce or custody fight.

                                    I am a practicing family law attorney. When I say family law, I specifically mean things related to marriage or divorce, or fights over custody of children, child support, prenuptial agreements, that sort of thing. I’m a partner at a law firm here in Arizona called Family Law Guys. We have offices in the Phoenix area and we have a Prescott office. We don’t practice outside of the state of Arizona, but if you want to call us and set up an appointment to talk with us, you can reach us at 480-565-8680 or you can check us out on our website at www.familylawguys.com.

                                    Today’s show, we’re going to be talking about mediation, what that means, whether or not it’s something that’s useful to you, or someone going through a divorce or custody process. We’ve got a special guest with us today, Michael Aurit, who is a mediator. Michael, are you on the line?

Michael Aurit:             I’m here, David. Thanks for having me.

David E.:                     Great, and thank you for joining us. Before we talk to Michael, who has been working as a mediator, we’re going to hit a couple of headlines in the news right now. First up, we have some controversy related to a Republican state senator in Tennessee named Joey Hensley. He’s come under fire, basically because he’s got a background of … he’s a pretty … he’s a conservative senator and he’s been known specifically for promoting family values.

                                    He’s a devout Christian, just to give you a background of some of his history, he sponsored a bill that would forbid sex ed teachers from mentioning the existence of homosexuality. He has also sponsored a bill that would allow college counselors to refuse to see students, even if they were in really extreme situations, if the counselor didn’t agree with that student’s viewpoints, because that was an LGBTQ student. Another bill that he introduced would deem any child born through artificial insemination as being illegitimate, regardless of the marital status or consent of the parents.

                                    So that’s kind of his background. He’s come under fire recently, because it came out that he’s been having … he’s married and he’s been having an affair with a co-worker that works in his separate medical practice. And even more interesting with the controversy, is that the co-worker is his second cousin, who is also married.

                                    So because he’s got this whole background with the family values and promoting all that, everybody’s pounced on him from the other side and we’ll see where all that goes. His defense on this whole thing has essentially been that nothing he’s done was illegal. There was also an allegation that popped up throughout … this cousin was going through a divorce and this is the process during which all of this information came out, through the testimony that happened in her divorce case. He was also alleged to have been prescribing her opioids. And so that also came out. His defense was basically that nothing he’s done was illegal and he hasn’t said much beyond that.

                                    In other news, we’ve got a … this is kind of a short story, but I thought it was reflective of some of the stuff we’re going to be talking about with Michael here. There was a shooting in Wisconsin, fellow by the name of, and I’m going to butcher this name, because I’ve only read it. It’s Nengmy Vang, 45 year old, who’s involved in a divorce, walked into a bank and opened fire, ended up killing four people. There were two bank employees, a detective that was outside and a lawyer that was in the bank. Turns out later that the lawyer was representing his wife in a divorce process, so one of the things that caught my attention about this particular article is it’s just so reflective of the high degree of emotion that you get in any of these family cases, either divorces or custody fights or anything like that.

                                    People get so wrapped up and if something isn’t going the way they want, and I know Michael, we’re going to be talking about this in a little bit, just having a sense of control over what’s going on, sometimes if you have a court that has issued an order and says this is what’s going to happen and it’s related to your livelihood or your children or anything like that, people just go absolutely crazy. And as is clear from the story, sometimes they will go out and start killing people. So it can be potentially very dangerous, very hostile and I think it’s very important that if you’re going through one of these processes, you find ways to kind of grab on to control, keep yourself on track and not destroy not only your lives, but other people’s lives as well.

                                    In other news, there is a recent bill in Oklahoma that is pushing for a resumption of fault based divorce. Right now, it’s possible in Oklahoma to get a no fault divorce as it is in Arizona and the basic idea behind that is it used to be that you would have to show some sort of grounds beyond just, “I don’t want to be married anymore,” in order to get a divorce. You would have to show historically, something like my spouse is beating me or my spouse is a drunkard or on drugs or is beating my children or something kind of extreme. There’s cheating going on, my spouse is having an affair or something like that.

                                    Well, there’s been a nationwide shift into this no fault based divorce system, where you basically just say, okay, I don’t like this person anymore, I don’t want to be married, and so you can just go to the court, get a divorce on those grounds. Well, Oklahoma has pushed this bill to eliminate that whole system and I find this interesting because if you were listening a couple of shows ago, we talked about, in some of the headlines, that Texas has also pushed a bill through. So it seems like there’s these sudden pushes to eliminate no fault divorce from the systems.

                                    Now, the interesting thing about this Oklahoma thing was that Oklahoma’s divorce rates overall, have dropped, but overall, nationwide … oh, well, back up a step. Nationwide as well, according to the CDC, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they have compiled data showing the divorce rates nationwide are down, but there’s also a look at the fact that marriage rates are down nationwide. So one of the concerns that’s coming out of Oklahoma is that despite these sort of drops in numbers and drops in numbers in Oklahoma specifically, Oklahoma’s ranking number three nationwide, according to the CDC data for divorce rates.

                                    And so a lot of the legislature there is getting concerned that with the decrease in marriage rates and this high divorce rate that Oklahoma has, basically, people aren’t looking at the institution of marriage as being something that’s valuable anymore. People are just kind of going through and getting either frivolously married or frivolously divorced, and so they want to reimpose the importance of a divorce, by imposing this whole fault based system.

                                    So I’m incredibly curious to see where this goes and this, as well as the the whole Texas thing and where this little shift goes. Just as a side note, Oklahoma came up number three in the data. It was preceded by Nevada and the number one in the list was Arkansas, who had the highest divorce rates.

                                    In other news, on the celebrity divorce front, there is the former Spice Girl, Scary Spice, as she was known or Melanie B or Mel B, seems like she’s gone by a couple different names, has announced that she’s getting a divorce. She got married in 2007 to Stefan Belafonte. Well, she recently filed for divorce in Los Angeles and the parties there have been known for … they’ve had a lot of publicity about kind of getting crazy in sexual ways. There’s been allegations that they had foursomes, they’ve been very open about that sort of thing and with the press.

                                    So apparently, in the past couple of years, the whole relationship has gone absolutely haywire. It’s become extremely toxic and so it’s my understanding that everyone is saying that Mel B or Scary Spice, whatever name we’re addressing her as, has been mapping out a plan to get out of this relationship for the past couple of years. And she’s finally taken the plunge and she went ahead and filed for divorce.

                                    One of the interesting things about this is that she has a prenup in place, that they had signed before they got married. And that to me, just kind of reinforces the impact that that can have when you’re looking at a divorce and how important that can be if there is any possibility that you get a divorce. Now, we could have a whole show on just the issue of prenups, I think. I’m an advocate for them, they can dramatically simplify the divorce process, if you’re having to go through that. There’s other potential benefits to prenups as well. There’s things like, even if you’re not getting divorced, you have some degree of creditor protection for your spouse.

                                    So for example, if you have a business and you’re running that business and you’re married and you’ve got a prenup that is compartmentalizing out anything that you own from what your spouse owns, and then for some reason you incur some liability with your business, then if creditors show up and they start chasing you, they can’t attack your spouse because you’ve separated out all the assets. So I think there’s a lot of benefit for prenups and the fact that in this particular case, and one of the reasons I like these celebrity divorces, is that they illustrate some of the things that everyday people are going through, when you’re looking at the divorces. So they tell you a lot about what happens in the divorce process.

                                    That’s all we got for the headlines today. We are going to take a quick break. I’m attorney David Enevoldsen. When we come back, we’re going to be talking to Michael Aurit about mediation as an option in the divorce or custody process. You want to call in and ask questions, you can do so at 602-277-KFNX. You are tuned into Family Law Report on Independent Talk 1100, KFNX.

KFNX:                        Family Law Report is hosted by Family Law Guys, an Arizona family law firm. Family Law Report is dedicated to confronting difficult issues related to marriage, divorce and children. This can range everywhere from addressing the legalities and controversies of topics like gay marriage, to current problems in the divorce system, to simply providing tips to those getting married or going through a divorce or custody fight. Tune in every Sunday to Family Law Report at noon, here on KFNX. If you want to know more or to schedule an appointment with David or another one of the Family Law Guys attorneys, call 408-565-8680. That’s 408-565-8680.

David E.:                     All right, welcome back everybody to Family Law Report. I’m David Enevoldsen, attorney with the Family Law Guys and our Arizona law firm, here with you every Sunday at noon on Independent Talk 1100 KFNX.

                                    We’re talking today to Michael Aurit about his work as a mediator and Michael, before we jump into this, let’s do a couple quick plugs. Number one, if you want to reach out to my firm, Family Law Guys, you can do so at 408-565-8680 or you can check us out at www.familylawguys.com. If you’re listening and you want to call in, share thoughts, ask us questions, anything like that, you can call us at 602-277-KFNX.

                                    And Michael, if people want to reach out to you and either find out more about mediation or want to talk to you about the possibility of doing mediation, how can people contact you?

Michael Aurit:             Sure, and thanks for that, David. They can go onto our website. Our website has a ton of information on all of these issues that we’re going to talk about today and a whole lot more. They can go to auritmediation.com. It’s A-U-R-I-T mediation.com. They can also call our office at 408-378-2686. That’s 408-378-2686. And we’d be glad to help.

David E.:                     Great, thank you and we’ll repeat that again in a bit, if anyone listening didn’t catch that. So Michael, let’s talk about what you do about mediation, all of that kind of thing. First off, I’m assuming from what you just said, your company is Aurit Mediation, is that correct?

Michael Aurit:             That’s us.

David E.:                     What is mediation? Let’s start with some foundational stuff.

Michael Aurit:             Mediation is simply a way to go through the divorce process without going to court, without necessarily having attorneys representing you, although you can do that as well. And it’s really kind of a low conflict process, so that a neutral mediator like myself, can sit down with husband and wife, with mom and dad, can help identify the issues of the divorce and let you know the law. And then hopefully, help you come up with creative solutions and agreements that you both can agree on. Both husband and wife, both mom and dad, and then we reach those agreements and we move forward with a divorce judgment based on the agreements of the people actually involved. So it certainly can be a lot lower conflict way to go through the divorce process.

David E.:                     Okay, so you are still going through the normal divorce case, using the judicial process, going to the court, filing things, but it’s using someone like yourself to resolve all the contested issues. Is that a fair characterization?

Michael Aurit:             You bet. I mean, we would still be filing for divorce with a petition for the divorce, it just happens in a bit of a different way. Typically, you might see, when attorneys are gearing up for litigation, a petition that’s an initial filing for divorce. They kind of look like the list of requests or demands. Our petition stays pretty neutral. Basically says, “Hey, they’re going to work it all out in mediation.” Instead of getting served with papers, that service piece of divorce, we handle it in the office together. So we’re still using the judicial process, it’s kind of a judicial process lite, if you will, without necessarily the firepower that going through that process and litigation would pack.

David E.:                     Okay, let’s talk about your background just for a second. Now, are you an attorney?

Michael Aurit:             You bet I am. I am the A word, it is true. Yeah, I’m a licensed attorney here in Arizona. 100% of my practice though, is divorce mediation, so I don’t represent individual clients, I don’t go to court or litigate cases. I’m an attorney who just stays as a neutral mediator for divorce.

David E.:                     Okay, and what got you into the mediation universe, as opposed to the litigation universe? Going out and kind of advocating for one side or the other.

Michael Aurit:             It’s a great question. I initially went to law school because I think like many, we have a desire to help people and I think there are different ways to help people. I think there’s a time and a place where individuals going through divorce, for example, you don’t really need aggressive advocacy. And then there’s also a time and a place where people need to lower the conflict, because they have kids or because they have some sort of relationship that maybe it would be a better idea that they didn’t cause [inaudible 00:21:12] in the middle of the divorce.

                                    And so I just realized while I was in law school that I wanted to help people as the latter. I really wanted to help people in a way that the least possible amount of damage would be done, especially when we’re dealing with families. Many times in divorces, young kids involved and it’s just kind of the role I wanted to play. And so that is what I did in law school. I got my education also in dispute resolution and my master’s degree there, and just mediated at a law school and never looked back.

David E.:                     So you said you mediated in law school? Were you actually doing some of this work then?

Michael Aurit:             I sure did. I think that’s really what did it for me. I went law school in Los Angeles and was mediating at the superior courts there and I just kind of saw, even in some of the simpler cases, when they would happen and play out in the courtroom, things get far more complicated than they needed to be. And so I was mediating cases in the Superior Court in Los Angeles and literally pulling people out of the courtroom, putting them into a room together, right at the courthouse and seeing if this could just be settled, so it didn’t have to continue. And time and time again, we were settling cases and I just thought, well, this is what I want to do forever and that’s what I do.

David E.:                     Cool. I’ve noticed with clients that I worked with, there seems to be a lot of confusion about what mediation is, versus a couple of other processes. We’ve talked a little bit about what’s mediation as contrasted with litigation, kind of going through … which in a sense, you’re kind of doing anyway, although it’s not necessarily the fighting component of litigation. One of the other ones I commonly hear confused is mediation versus arbitration. Can you speak to what that distinction is?

Michael Aurit:             Sure, so arbitration, I kind of would think about it as kind of picking a private judge. When you go to the court, you don’t get to pick your judge. You are set up with a judge from the court and that’s who you’re dealing with and that judge works for the state. In arbitration, you’re basically saying, hey, we still want someone to decide all of this for us, but we’re going to pick a private arbitrator to do this, and we’re going to kind of have a bit of a streamlined process in doing this as well, that isn’t quite as drug out as sometimes litigation can become. So it’s still out of the court room, but it’s a bit of a courtroom-like experience. That’s the best way to describe it, I think.

David E.:                     So it’s kind of taking the litigation process and just moving it away from the court, in essence. Is that another-

Michael Aurit:             I’d say that’s about right. It’s taking the litigation process away from kind of the court process in Maricopa County and saying, hey, let’s just do the litigation process on our own with a private judge presiding over there.

David E.:                     Okay, now you said a minute ago that you are an attorney, and then you went to law school and that’s kind of what spun you into this whole process in the first place. Does someone have to actually be, in Arizona, an attorney, in order to be a mediator?

Michael Aurit:             That’s a good question. The answer is actually no. There’s certainly advantages, I think, when people go through divorce or are looking for a mediator, for that mediator to be an attorney, but in Arizona, like a lot of states, the mediator doesn’t actually need to be.

David E.:                     Now, do you feel there are benefits to having a mediator that is an attorney?

Michael Aurit:             I think there are generally, then again, just because a mediator is an attorney, doesn’t make that mediator necessarily qualify to be a mediator. There are some, for example, mental health professionals. Some counselors or therapists who I may have more trust in than some attorneys out there, who are mediating. But I think generally, so much of mediation revolves around at least the people going through it, understanding what the law says. When I sit down with mom and dad, I’m going to want them before they make their agreements, to know exactly what the law says about legal decision-making authority. For example, what we used to call custody. They have to understand the law before they decide they want to do something different.

David E.:                     We’re going to take a quick break. I’m sorry to cut you off. We’ll pick that up in just a sec. I’m attorney David Enevoldsen and we’re talking with Michael Aurit, the mediator. When we come back, we’re going to be talking a little more about mediation as an option in the divorce and custody process. You are tuned into Family Law Report on Independent Talk 1100 KFNX.

David E.:                     Welcome back to Family Law Report, I’m David Enevoldsen, attorney with Family Law Guys, an Arizona law firm, here with you every Sunday at noon on Independent Talk 1100 KFNX. If you want to reach out to my firm, Family Law Guys, you can do so by calling us at 408-565-8680. Or you can check us out at www.familylawguys.com. If you are listening and you want to call in and ask any questions, share thoughts, ask questions of my guest Michael, you can do so at 602-277-KFNX.

                                    And we’ve been talking with Michael Aurit, about his work as a mediator and Michael, go ahead and give us another plug, if people want to reach out to you and either find out more about mediation or want to talk to you about the possibility of using you as a mediator. Where do they go?

Michael Aurit:             I appreciate that. They can go to our website at auritmediation.com. A-U-R-I-T mediation.com. They can also call us at 408-378-2686.

David E.:                     Great, thank you. So we’ve been talking about the mediation process and a 30,000 foot view kind of thing. Can we get a little more detailed here? So paint a picture for me. If someone comes to you and says, “I’ve decided I need to get a divorce or go through a custody fight,” or whatever it is, “And I have also decided I want to use a mediator,” what does that process look like? They come to you, how does it all go down?

Michael Aurit:             I think how they come to me is kind of the first really key point. Husband and wife, mom and dad, whoever it may be, are actually going to come to me together. So the first thing that potential clients seeing me would do, is schedule a free consultation. We do a free one-hour consultation where both spouses meet with me and it’s so important that we start the process like that, because what’s so important is that both spouses are going to trust the mediator to be neutral. It’s important that I don’t take sides during this divorce process.

David E.:                     If I can interject for a second, that’s actually an interesting distinction, in my mind, because as an attorney, where I work in the universe of advocating for one side or the other, I will periodically have people come to me that are about to go through a divorce that will say, “Can I bring in my spouse?” And my typical response is no, because I need to be able to have a privileged discussion with you that’s private, where we can talk about your rights and obligations and the possibility for tactical implications of what we’re going to do. So it’s a very different mindset if you’re approaching me, versus if you’re approaching you, it sounds like.

Michael Aurit:             You’re right and I think you make a really important point that sometimes, relatively simple, relatively straightforward cases, where there is obviously some conflict or else people wouldn’t be getting divorced in the first place, but relatively speaking, a lower amount of conflict, those ladies and gentlemen that come to you and say, “Hey, can I bring my spouse?” Too often, people continue on that road with their attorney and litigation and things become more conflicted than then they need to be, simply because the husband and wife aren’t talking through things with one another from the beginning.

                                    So from the beginning with us, in mediation, husband and wife are meeting together, they’re learning about what mediation is and how it works. They’re learning about our process and they’re getting their questions asked. And then if people believe that this is the process they want to move forward with, they are able to schedule their first mediation meeting, where we would kind of focus on one area of the divorce. Maybe the first meeting we focus on issues with kids, schedules and financial obligations, and maybe the second meeting, we focus on an issue like dividing assets and debt. And then maybe their last meeting is about spousal support, if that’s an issue.

                                    And we kind of take them through that process together, understanding that at any time, they can consult with their own attorney. We even have some resources where we encourage people going through the process together, hey, why don’t you talk with your own legal adviser while you’re going through this? Just in case you need some extra support and we think that’s a good idea as well.

David E.:                     That seems like another important distinction in my mind, is that you’re in a position where you can’t necessarily give advice to one side or the other. Is that correct?

Michael Aurit:             That’s right.

David E.:                     So if you have an attorney and as you indicated, I don’t see why these would be mutually exclusive at all, you can be going through the mediation process and then simultaneously go off to the attorney that’s representing you to get advice and make sure you’re not doing something that’s just tactically foolish or just make sure everything is okay. You’re doing the right things or making the right calls.

Michael Aurit:             In a lot of ways, that approach to divorce is kind of like having your cake and eating it too. You’re involved in a process with a professional whose job it is to keep the fighting to a minimum, to keep the miscommunications and misunderstandings to a minimum, and keep people talking, while at the same time, having an attorney at your disposal, so that in between meetings, you’re discussing other negotiations that are going on. And before you sign anything, you have your own attorney review the divorce decree that’s been written by the mediator, so that you can feel peace of mind and get suggestions and have potentially some edits made. At least some suggested edits made by your attorney, before you do sign, that will drastically lower the cost, first and foremost, I think, of your divorce process. Because the lower you keep conflict, the less you’re going to spend.

David E.:                     That spurs another thought for me, in that when I’m going into the divorce process, there’s different techniques of different attorneys we use. Some of them take a very bulldog approach, some of them kind of come in and just try to settle from the get-go. My personal viewpoint is generally as an initial volley, I want to see if it’s possible to settle things. So I feel like my first move when I jump into the case is to reach out to the other side and say, hey, can we work this out?

                                    The problem that I run into very often is that I’m already representing the opposite side, so I’m inherently evil incarnate. I’m representing Satan, in this other person’s mind, and so I don’t have the same kind of position that you do, where I can come in and say, well, I’m just working with both of you, I’m not representing one or the other, and I think that puts you in a slightly better position to say, hey, let’s work this out, as opposed to me advocating for another side saying, hey, let’s work this out, when I’m really just trying to trick you, or that’s what’s going on in this person’s mind.

Michael Aurit:             Sure, the mediator can work as a real buffer because look, sometimes if you’re representing husband and you make a proposal that is a really reasonable proposal, simply because you are the attorney representing husband, that may not be well-received. Whereas if these things are happening in mediation, there’s not necessarily good guy and bad guy involved.

                                    And to your point David, there are a few attorneys I know in town who kind of approach in the way that you do, where look, you are aggressive if you need to be aggressive, otherwise why the aggressive? That will only cause more legal fees and more stress and more time involved for your client. So the first approach, I know the way you work, is hey, can we settle this? Can we settle this as fair and reasonably as possible, and then only if and when you need to engage in some of the other tactics you do that, whereas that’s not always the case. Some attorneys will approach aggressive to the max right out of the gate and I don’t think that’s to the benefit of many people out there.

David E.:                     And I generally don’t either. My personal feeling again, there’s different styles and approaches on this. My personal feeling is that taking that stance usually results in a heck of a lot more headache, a heck of a lot more legal fees, a heck of a lot more time involved in the process, and just really makes it everything way more difficult. And I think a lot of times when you have an attorney that just comes in and just starts peppering the other side with motions or trying to badger them or bully them into submission, what you do is inherently create problems for the client as well.

                                    Now that said, I want to make it clear that I do think there are times to kind of kick back. I do think there are times to fight. I do think there are times to say no, this is not an acceptable proposal. So I’m not by any stretch saying you should just accept whatever is being handed to you, at least again, this is my opinion.

Michael Aurit:             I agree wholeheartedly.

David E.:                     I think a lot of the time, people make things way more difficult than it needs to be, as you’ve indicated earlier, so I’m pretty on board with that general mindset.

Michael Aurit:             Bring out the bazooka when you need to.

David E.:                     If someone’s coming in to you and saying, “I want an equal parenting plan,” and you’re saying, “No, that’s not fair. I don’t like that because historically, I’ve had more time with the child,” that’s a little different from saying you’re not allowed to ever see your kid. If someone’s just not coming off of that position it makes a lot more sense to me to jump into the fight, and say I’m entitled to time with my child, if you just can’t work through that.

                                    Now, as we were saying, I think having you as a middle ground, as opposed to someone that’s advocating for one side or the other, can really make a difference in terms of the perception of the client that … I think there’s always this inherent concern that if I’m coming in as an advocate, I’m necessarily trying to pull the wool over someone’s eyes. I’m coming in trying to trick them and every time I do that, especially with someone that’s not represented on the other side by an attorney themselves, I tend to find that person gets very defensive while talking to me.

                                    At any rate, we’re going to take another quick break. I’m attorney David Enevoldsen, I’ve been talking with Michael Aurit. We’re going to talk to him a little more when we come back. If you want to call in and ask any questions, you can do so at 602-277-KFNX. I work for Family Law Guys, an Arizona law firm and you are tuned in to Family Law Reports on Independent Talk 1100 KFNX.

KFNX:                        Family Law Report is hosted by Family Law Guys, an Arizona family law firm. Family Law Report is dedicated to confronting difficult issues related to marriage, divorce and children. This can range everywhere from addressing the legalities and controversies of topics like gay marriage, to current problems in the divorce system, to simply providing tips to those getting married or going through a divorce or custody fight. Tune in every Sunday to Family Law Report at noon, here on KFNX. If you want to know more or to schedule an appointment with David or another one of the Family Law Guys attorneys, call 408-565-8680. That’s 408-565-8680.

David E.:                     Welcome back to Family Law Report, I’m David Enevoldsen, attorney with Family Law Guys, an Arizona law firm, here with you every Sunday at noon on Independent Talk 1100 KFNX. If you want to check out my firm, make an appointment, find anything more about us, you can reach out to us at 408-565-8680. Or you can check us out our website at www.familylawguys.com. If you are listening and you want to call in and ask any questions, share thoughts, you can do so at 602-277-KFNX.

                                    And lastly, we’ve been talking with Michael Aurit, who works as a mediator and Michael, let’s do another quick plug. If anyone wants to learn more about mediation or talk to you about the possibility of using you are a mediator, where would they contact you?

Michael Aurit:             Sure, they can visit us online at auritmediation.com. A-U-R-I-T mediation.com. Or 408-378-2686. They can call in and we’ll be glad to help.

David E.:                     Great, so we were talking about mediation, which if I can … correct me if I’m mischaracterizing this, but I guess I would call it the process of basically taking the parties in a divorce or custody fight, pulling them out of the court process and having a neutral party such as yourself try to work out an agreement between them, that everybody can live with. Is that a decent description of what mediation is?

Michael Aurit:             I think it’s a really good description. I think what’s important to go a little bit deeper on it, it’s not the mediator who is deciding these agreements. It’s not the mediator who is kind of saying, hey, this is what I think you should do, what do you guys think? In mediation, it’s about what is most fair to the spouses involved? What is the best agreement possible for them to come to?

                                    And so they bring a lot of themselves, what they want and what they need and why they want and need the things that they do to the table, and then as a mediator, I kind of hear what it is they want and need, and then kind of guide them to the solutions on how they get to an agreement that they both actually feel pretty okay about.

David E.:                     Now, we’ve alluded to this a little bit in terms of some of the cost and time involved, but can you outline specifically, what are advantages to going through this mediation road, assuming that’s feasible versus going the litigation road and just starting off filing?

Michael Aurit:             Sure, I think in terms of cost, a lot of people don’t necessarily fully understand what they are getting themselves into when they-

David E.:                     I agree with that.

Michael Aurit:             Divorce case. And so I kind of have a sense of what attorneys in town would estimate, in terms of the litigation process, for a moderately contested case that doesn’t go to trial, but that may last for an average amount of time litigating, I don’t think that it’s uncommon for people to spend in that $15,000 range per spouse. And of course, when cases really get heated, those cases you hear going on for a year or two or more, that do go to trial, I think you’re going to be hard-pressed not to spend 50,000 on a case, which is devastating I think, financially, to a lot of people. In mediation, we’re looking at probably 90% less of what an average case would be-

David E.:                     And just as a background for anybody that’s listening, if I can interject real quick. The way that most family law attorneys bill is on an hourly basis. And most of them will charge anywhere from $200 to $500 per hour, so the longer your litigation goes on, the more you’re shelling out in money.

Michael Aurit:             That’s true and that’s why it’s so important that when you have an attorney, you find an attorney if you’re going to have one represent you, that is very conscientious about how they are billing for time and how they’re spending time on a case. One of the things I know about you David is, you don’t spend an hour writing an email.

David E.:                     Occasionally, but not very often.

Michael Aurit:             Rarely.

David E.:                     A very involved email, maybe.

Michael Aurit:             Some attorneys may take their time more than others and I think that your clients have an extremely efficient attorney, who’s going to cover every angle, see how they can be, saving costs. But regardless, when that billing by the hour takes place, gosh, those bills add up fast. One of the things that we do at the Aurit Center for Divorce Mediation is charge a flat fee for the entire process. So people know exactly what they’re going to spend from the beginning to the end and they’re not necessarily being billed for time.

                                    Nor does the case take nearly as long, in terms of that time piece that you mentioned. We see the majority of our cases take two to four months from beginning to end. Some litigated cases, we can see happen really swiftly, especially when attorneys are trying to reach settlement as possible, but we usually don’t see it happen that quickly. It wouldn’t be uncommon, I think, for a litigated case to last nine months or more.

                                    And of course, I think that the last really important piece is stress involved. Because in mediation, people are less financially stressed and the case is not being dragged out per se. It really makes a difference in terms of the emotional impact, the stress level of people going through divorce. Divorce is hard enough as it is, emotionally. The litigated process can certainly cause some stress, as I think you mentioned earlier on today, before I came on the show. There was some violence happening recently and divorce seemed to be kind of a catalyst for that.

                                    So I’d say those are some real distinctions.

David E.:                     Yes, and something I can point out from what you were saying a minute ago about the money and time, you mentioned that you tend to work on flat fees when you’re going through this mediation process, and one of the inherent problems I think, it’s sort of a double-edged sword, in terms of the hourly basis of attorneys in the family law universe.

                                    On the one hand, the whole reason for the hourly billing system from an attorney is that family law is so completely unpredictable. When you start getting into the fight, you have no idea who’s going to be filing what, what’s going to happen, so if someone comes to me and I try to offer a flat fee, I can say “I’m going to do your case for 10 grand,” and then if I make one phone call and I’ve settled everything, I’ve completely ripped off the client.

                                    Conversely, if I say, “Okay, I’m going to do your whole case for $100,” and then I spend the next three years in non-stop litigation or everybody’s filing things and nobody has any incentive to stop just because it gets so emotional, I’ve suddenly gotten completely ripped off. So because of that, we’ve got this hourly system that’s in place, where we just basically bill for whatever we do and that way, I’m not getting over compensated or under compensated.

                                    The problem with that system is that it seems to create an inherent incentive for the attorney to prolong litigation too, which is inherently counter to the best interest of the client. Whereas in your situation, you’re saying okay, we’re going to do a flat fee, you now have an incentive to resolve it. Because you’ve already gotten paid. And you just want to get the thing done, as opposed to I’m just going to keep doing whatever I need to do to keep getting bills in the door.

Michael Aurit:             That is exactly why we do it. There is kind of a conflict of interest involved. Not that attorneys would necessarily allow that to sway them, but I can’t speak for all attorneys. The way it’s set up, the professional, the attorney has financially benefited from the amount of time it takes to end the case and in a divorce, the only thing that causes time is conflict. So you can see how that sets up and that’s why, find a trusted attorney, first and foremost.

                                    We take that out of the equation when we do a flat fee, because we don’t have all of the filings and the motions and the appearances and the court hearings, and we’re not beholden to the judge’s timeline. In mediation, spouses set the timeline. In a typical case, we may have anywhere between two two hour meetings and six two hour meetings. Clients decide when they want to meet. If clients need three meetings to settle their case, they can meet once a week or once every two weeks, and then be done. And that way, it’s easier for me to say, okay, this is a relatively straightforward case, here’s the flat fee.

David E.:                     That’s about all the time we have for today’s show. You’ve been listening to Family Law report. I’m David Enevoldsen, attorney with Family Law Guys, an Arizona law firm. I want to thank Michael Aurit for joining me today. Michael, one more quick plug. What’s your website?

Michael Aurit:             It’s auritmediation.com. Thank you so much David, for having me. I really enjoyed it.

David E.:                     And thank you for joining us and join us again next week and on Sunday at noon for more of the latest on Family Law, here on Independent Talk 1100 KFNX. Thanks all for listening.

KFNX:                        Family Law Report is hosted by Family Law Guys, an Arizona family law firm. Family Law Report is dedicated to confronting difficult issues related to marriage, divorce and children. This can range everywhere from addressing the legalities and controversies of topics like gay marriage, to current problems in the divorce system, to simply providing tips to those getting married or going through a divorce or custody fight. Tune in every Sunday to Family Law Report at noon, here on KFNX. If you want to know more or to schedule an appointment with David or another one of the Family Law Guys attorneys, call 408-565-8680. That’s 408-565-8680.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.