Divorce, Paternity & Mediation

A judge has agreed to halt a contested divorce between former Vice President Joe Biden’s son and his estranged wife, ordering them to try at least four hours of mediation.

As the New York Daily News reports, Thursday’s ruling came after lawyers for both Hunter Biden and Kathleen Buhle Biden filed court papers saying they want to end their marriage without continued litigation.

The Bidens recognize the benefit in finalizing their divorce “amicably and privately.”

Last week’s request to put the case on hold came after Kathleen Biden accused Hunter Biden in court documents of squandering their money on drugs, alcohol and prostitutes. Kathleen Biden filed for divorce in December.

I’ve written about mediation and settlement in the past. In Florida, every case of divorce and paternity must attempt to resolve their difference through mediation before their case can proceed to trial, but you don’t have to wait for a court order.

Pre-Suit Mediation

For many clients, especially for high profile clients such as the Bidens, discretion and privacy is very important. Athletes and celebrities, in addition to politicians, have big stake in keeping their divorces out of the news as the New York Daily News article proves.

Why? Often, people are concerned that their financial disclosure, net worth, and details regarding their income will become available to the public through the court files. For businesses, this could even include having sensitive business information available to business competitors.

Also, many people are often concerned about their private affairs being played out in the news or newspapers or elsewhere in public, which could potentially jeopardize careers and social status.

There is also a big cost saving to mediating before filing a family law or divorce action. If both parties can agree to deadlines to exchange their financial documents, and cooperate with children’s issues, thousands of dollars can be saved in a pre-suit settlement.

What is Mediation

In a mediation, the parties and their attorneys meet with a neutral mediator – sometimes together, sometimes separately – to try to negotiate a settlement agreement.

Ideally, both the mediator and the attorneys should have enough experience to anticipate what will happen if the case goes to trial. Drawing on that experience, they can help the parties negotiate an agreement without any need to have a judge decide the issues for them.

At mediation, you will discuss issues that are highly personal and emotional. Accordingly, there are many factors to think about when choosing the right family mediator. Below are a few to think about:

Choosing a Mediator

Trust is the most important consideration in choosing a family law mediator. Your mediator should be someone you feel comfortable with as a person and as a professional.

Specialization is another important criterion. Ask your attorney if the mediator in your case has a practice area dedicated to divorce and family mediation. Family is not an area to dabble in. To be effective in family mediations requires patience as well as skills. Ideally, you want the percentage to be 100%.

Cost is always an important consideration. While it can be expensive to spend the day in mediation, if you’re successful, you are likely to save thousands on your total legal fees.

When comparing mediation fees, base your decision on selecting a mediator with a high success rate for settlements. $200 per hour sounds better than $400 per hour, but not if your $200 mediator spends 8 hours without a resolution, you have not saved anything.

Final Thoughts

Mediation is a great way to resolve your divorce without paying for a full trial. Choosing a mediator is the first step, and may be the most important decision you can reach in your divorce.

The New York Daily News article is here.