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Sanford divorce tries mediation

Photo of Karen Lavin


For many Illinoisans, divorce can be a messy, difficult process. Emotions flare, words are said and dirty laundry is aired. In turn, tempers rise and litigation stretches forward, often for years. Take, for example, the divorce of Mark Sanford who is currently a United States congressman, but is better known for being the governor who arranged a romantic rendezvous with his Argentine lover by claiming to be on a hike through the Appalachian Trail.

When Sanford's deception was discovered, his wife left him. The divorce concluded in 2010, but for the last four and half years, Sanford and his ex-wife have been in and out of court over alimony, child custody and child support.

Despite the prolific litigation over the preceding years, emotions may have finally cooled because the couple has agreed to mediate several of their issues, including their parenting issues. If the couple follows through on the agreement, they will sit down and discuss their issues with the benefit of a mediator with the goal of reaching a mutually agreeable solution. Whether that is possible given the water under the couples' bridge remains to be seen.

Although it is not clear if the Sanford's acrimonious split can be salvaged through mediation, mediation may be the right route for many Illinoisans because it typically cheaper than litigation and offers more flexibility in forging a final agreement. For instance, a judge has to follow certain rules regarding alimony, child custody and child support whereas the couple has far greater latitude.

Still, mediation is not for everybody. If a couple is not on equal footing, mediation may result in an unfair solution. Indeed, according to some mediation experts, some mediators achieve compromise by looking for weakness in one of the parties. Once the mediation identifies weakness, the mediator can leverage it into pushing the weaker party into agreeing to terms the weaker party would not have agreed to had the party had the benefit of lawyer to represent them.

Source: Wall Street Journal, "Divorce, Sanford Style: Social Media and Meditation," Liz Moyer & Karen Damato, Sept. 15, 2014

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