Mountain View, California (EastBayDaily) — Armed with the latest case law and backed by a posse of experts, two divorce attorneys march to the battlefield. Gladiator-like, they stride into the courtroom, ready to dispatch their opponent with an incisive comment here, a debilitating rebuttal there. Looking the part of the nervous patron, the clients brace for the coming duel and hope that their champion survives.
Sound absurd? In truth, this is exactly how divorces have been resolved for decades. The end result of this spectacle is predictable. The spouse whose lawyer “won” the proceedings doesn’t feel the elation he or she anticipated. In fact, once the fog of war dissipates, both spouses realize that they are simply dividing a vastly diminished prize. Their hearts are bruised, their finances battered. The adversarial court system has failed them.
Over the past twenty years, a quiet revolution has changed the way Americans divorce. Instead of engaging in merciless litigation, couples are benefiting by resolving their conflict with a neutral mediator. Out with the gladiators, in with the peacemaker. Based on the deceivingly simple premise that negotiating based on each party’s underlying interests is the key to successful settlement, mediation has grown exponentially in popularity.
An example of this new style of legal practice is California Divorce Mediation, based in Mountain View, California, and run by David Magnuson, a Stanford and Georgetown-educated attorney with a penchant for conflict resolution. Asked about why he left behind a lucrative career at one of the world’s most successful law firms, Magnuson responds, “I knew I wanted to mediate. I love mediation because every meeting represents a chance to improve my clients’ lives. Divorce is always difficult, but it doesn’t have to be disastrous. I make it my mission to escort my clients through the process in the most constructive way possible.”
Every mediator has a unique style, and Magnuson’s is decidedly calm and reassuring. From his tranquil office high above Silicon Valley, he guides clients through the many steps required to end a marriage peacefully. Using techniques refined by his commitment to education and analysis, he helps each spouse reframe his or her concerns until both spouses are clear on their respective priorities and interests. Asked if his clients need to get along for mediation to work, Magnuson says, “Not at all. In fact, many clients have a hard time sharing the same space. If all else fails, I can use a technique called caucusing to manage conflict. It involves meeting with each client separately to help them regroup before resuming negotiation.”
Mirroring the problem-solving mentality that characterizes his practice, Magnuson’s office contains an extensive library of books about divorce that he encourages his clients to borrow. He realizes an informed client is more likely to respect the critical mediation tenets of full disclosure and informed discussion. In addition to his library, he maintains a website packed with information about mediation, spousal support, child support, custody, property division and other issues that face a divorcing couple.
Asked about divorce lawyers’ reputation for burdening clients with onerous legal fees, Magnuson says, “It’s a very real concern, and one I’m happy to address. Mediation is much less expensive than litigation. In many cases, the savings can run into the tens of thousands of dollars – hundreds of thousands in severe cases.” Describing how he does things differently, he says, “Transparent billing is a critical aspect of my practice. It’s one of the pillars of client trust that I hold sacred. My clients know when they are being billed. They appreciate the fact that there are no surprises.”
While there will always be a place for the classic divorce gladiator, more and more couples are deciding to mediate, which means they will be drawing upon the expertise of professionals like Magnuson. He can be reached by phone at (650) 964-7859. His website is located at http://www.cadivorcemediation.com
David Magnuson, Esq.
California Divorce Mediation