PASADENA – People going through a divorce can save time, money, and heartache by pursuing mediation instead of traditional litigation.
“Divorce is a traumatic experience for most people,” says divorce mediator Steven Unruh, MDiv, LMFT. “People in a divorce experience dysfunction, accusations and overwhelming feelings of anger and loss. Depression, stress and chaos can especially effect children in a divorce.”
Steven Unruh is a divorce mediator based in Pasadena, CA. He has three decades of experience as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and as a divorce mediator. Unruh files divorce cases in twelve different courthouses throughout Southern California.
He says there are four main stressors that affect those going through divorce. The first one, says Unruh, is abuse.
“Usually, the person who initiates the divorce experiences mental and physical exhaustion as they try to communicate how their spouse has treated them for years,” says Unruh. “The abusing party, who often is narcissistic, rarely sees it.”
The second common stressor in a divorce is the despair parties feel over an affair. Often, a person initiates a divorce when they find their spouse has been cheating on them. Especially if this is a second or third affair, the spouse can feel hopeless and depressed as they struggle to realize their spouse is not capable of the change they hoped for.
The third common stressor is financial stress.
“One of the ways spouses retaliate in a divorce is by spending money on themselves. This causes significant stress on the spouse that’s trying to keep the family stable,” says Unruh.
The average cost of a litigated divorce is $60,000. In contrast, the average cost of mediation is $7,000.
“People coming to me for mediation are often trying to protect themselves and their families financially,” says Unruh.
The fourth common stressor in a divorce is the safety and wellbeing of any children. In an unhealthy divorce, spouses can take their anger out on their children through threats or even abuse.
“In mediation, it’s extremely important to resolve the issue of custody. Mediation helps couples identify what is in the best interest of their children,” says Unruh. “A professional mediator can advocate for the safety and mental health of children involved in a divorce.”
Divorce mediation can significantly reduce the length of a divorce. Traditional litigation takes an average of forty-two months. In contrast, a professional mediator typically finalizes a divorce in four to six months.
Couples who want to avoid litigation should be looking for three things in mediation. First, they should make sure the mediator can mediate all aspects of finances, including pensions, properties, assets, alimony, and custody issues. Second, they should make sure the mediator handles the divorce process from start to finish, including the court documentation. Third, they should make sure the mediator has mental health credentials so they can be sure difficult emotional issues will be managed with professionalism and expertise.
Steven Unruh hosts the radio show “Understanding Your World,” on 790 KABC out of Culver City, CA. In the show, Unruh offers insights and tools for recognizing why we do what we do and how we are impacting the people we love. Topics include narcissism, childhood trauma, fear of attachment as an adult, human dignity, depression, parenting, and many more topics.
“Especially in a complicated divorce, the more we can understand our behavior and the behavior of those around us, we will find life more fulfilling and our relationships and friendships more rewarding,” says Unruh. “It can be hard for couples to see it sometimes, but there is life beyond divorce.”
By pursuing mediation instead of traditional litigation, people can resolve their divorce with less conflict, less money, and less time.
Unruh believes each person going through a divorce has choice and agency in the process. Unruh says, “The question is, What is important to you as you resolve your divorce?”
To learn more about mediation and Steven Unruh, go to www.stevenunruh.com. His website offers free consultations, videos and downloadable resources to assist those going through divorce.
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Abigail is an English novelist who began her career as an actress. Her second book, Golden Boy, was described as a “dazzling debut” by Oprah’s Book Club.
Disclaimer: The views, suggestions, and opinions expressed here are the sole responsibility of the experts. No Exact Observer journalist was involved in the writing and production of this article.