The Bezos Divorce of Amazon’s Parents Makes Us Think

Mediation might be a better alternative for many going through divorce.

Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos, the billionaire founders of the online retail giant Amazon, announced recently that after 25 years of marriage, they were getting divorced.

With an estimated net worth of $137 billion, multi-million dollar real estate holdings – it was reported that Jeff and MacKenzie might own more land than almost anyone else in the U.S. – multiple foundations and 16% of Amazon’s stock – their divorce will likely be costly and complicated. In fact, some are suggesting that the divorce could even impact the U.S. economy.

While only time will tell, one thing is certain: the Bezos divorce, no matter how amicable, will be tabloid fodder for all of 2019 and beyond.

Divorce in the U.S.

In the United States, there is one divorce approximately every 36 seconds or

  • 2,400 divorces per day;
  • 16,800 divorces per week; and
  • 876,000 divorces a year.

Anyone who has gone through or knows someone who has been divorced, understands that divorce is a terrible experience for everyone involved. And one reason is that it too often is a court contest. A alternative idea is to go to mediation, a sometimes less antagonistic approach that occurs outside of a courtroom.

Mediation vs. Courts

Many couples rush headlong into adversarial litigation, each hiring separate attorneys. Often, conflicts are escalated as each partner tries to win a better deal at the expense of the other. The couple is often ordered not to speak to each other, but only through their attorneys.          

Out-of-court mediation, on the other hand, is a process in which you and your spouse work with the help of a neutral third party to come to your own agreement on all issues. These may include child custody, parenting schedules, equitable distribution of assets, awards of spousal maintenance and child support.

In contrast to court-ordered mediation, this is a process both parties enter voluntarily. The mediator is someone who has completed comprehensive family and divorce mediation training (including in domestic violence) and can help you work your way through the process, often with the help of a financial professional.

The Benefits of Mediation

When compared to the traditional litigated divorce process, mediation has several potential advantages.

First, it’s less expensive. A mediated divorce costs an estimated 60% to 75% less than an adversarial one. It also tends to be quicker. A typical mediated divorce takes four to eight weeks, whereas litigation can last months or even years.

Rather than working against each other, you and your spouse are moving cooperatively toward an agreement that is equitable to both of you. This preserves your ability to function together in the future as parents, and reduces the residual resentment and anger that usually accompanies the win-lose litigation process. Rather than looking back to assign blame, mediation looks to the future and enables both of you to begin your new lives in full control of the outcome.

Find the Right Mediator

If you and your spouse prefer this approach, you must first find the right attorney. According to the Center for Mediation and Law, many adversarial lawyers have little or no experience with mediation, and some even disapprove of the practice. Divorcing couples who wish to take the mediation route should seek a more mediation-friendly divorce attorney.

At the end of the mediation process, you have a document called a Memorandum of Understanding, ready for your attorneys to review and file. Filed with the court, this is as binding as any other divorce decree. However, mediated settlements tend to have a higher compliance rate because the husband and wife designed the agreement themselves.

The biggest reason that mediation works is that you are able to build your own agreement with the guidance of one or more trained professionals.

Please note that neither collaborative divorce nor mediation is appropriate if there is a history of domestic violence. In that case, the court and the isolating effect of opposing counsels can offer a more protective environment.

If you or someone you know is going through a divorce, don’t go it alone. Talk to your friends, a counselor, your advisor and your lawyer. And consider the pros and cons of mediation.