Moving Forward
Through mediation, attorney Kim Denise Morton helps divorcing couples spare themselves—and their children—from unnecessary pain and anguish
by Phil Gianficaro

The marriage is over.

The mutual love and respect that a couple pledged forever on the most important day of their lives has somehow dissolved into a torrent of anger, bitterness and vengeance. Perhaps the breaking point is a one-time infidelity. Maybe the reason is physical and/or emotional abuse meted out over years.

Whatever the reasons, the couple is man and wife in name only. Their spiritual bond, once seemingly unbreakable, has been irreparably fractured. However, legally ending this troubled union may not be so easy, not when factors such as division of assets and custody issues with children must be considered.

So what is the best course of action to amicably end the marriage, divide assets and settle custody concerns?

“I’m a firm believer of encouraging divorcing couples to agree to mediation instead of taking it through the court system,” says attorney Kim Denise Morton, founder of Morton Family Law LLC, in West Chester. “There are so many advantages to both parties who decide to use mediation, which gives the clients more control and a greater say about what they’ll agree to.”

Divorce mediation is a litigation alternative that allows divorcing spouses to reach an agreement by settling their differences outside of court. As opposed to court rulings or arbitration findings, which don’t actively engage couples in the decision-making process, a mediator is a neutral third party who facilitates the process by helping couples reach a compromise, allowing them to be more proactive in a resolution.

“Through mediation, couples, even though they’re divorcing, learn how to communicate with each other,” Morton says. “After the divorce, they’ll still need to know how to speak to each other without lawyers, especially if there are children involved.”

With more than 25 years experience in family law, Morton has established a reputation for her ability to negotiate fair settlements for her clients while still protecting the client’s rights. Morton is an expert in divorce, family law, child custody, child support, spousal support, visitation rights, premarital agreements, paternity and family mediation. She’s a trained mediator and previously served as a mediator for the Chester County Court’s custody mediation program. She has also been appointed by the court to serve in her capacity as a mediator and arbitrator in complex family law cases.

Morton is a 1983 graduate of Widener University School of Law, a former assistant district attorney in Chester County, and spent more than 20 years in private practice, focusing exclusively in the area of family law before founding her own law firm in 2007.

“If mediation looks like a good case option with my client, I’ll raise it early on in the initial consultation,” Morton says. “My goal, and it should be the goal of both parties, is to do it peacefully and create the least amount of damage as possible, especially if there are children.

“I feel it’s important to introduce the idea of mediation early,” she continues. “If the parties don’t agree to it early, and they get angrier and angrier during the process, it’s hard to backtrack to mediation. Too many things may have been said for mediation to work.”

Morton cites cases in which the divorcing parties were so angry at each other and so intent on hurting each other that they weren’t aware of just how destructive their decisions were being to their children.

“The damage to the kids is obvious,” she says. “The more volatile the divorce, the more stress we see in children. Children can’t avoid being drawn into it. They feel they have to pick sides. They suffer over loyalty issues if they show they still love the parent that the other is fighting with.

“But when parties use mediation, children view that as their parents are working together amicably. If the kids know Mom and Dad are on board, the children will adapt. This is a major reason I favor mediation over going to court.”

Morton says it still surprises her when parents get caught up in their own hurt and pain and, in the process, lose sight of their children’s welfare. She finds it difficult to watch, and she gently tries to point out to her clients how their decisions may impact their children psychologically.

If custody is contested, the court may insist on invasive custody evaluations of the family. “If these cases go to court instead of mediation, the problems get ripped open more and more and the children suffer more and more,” Morton says. “It’s among the most painful things to watch in my line of work.”

Some couples become so angry and intent on punishing their spouse during divorce proceedings that they want to go to court. But aside from surrendering any control in the decision-making process, there is a great financial concern. The cost of divorce mediation is far less than that of a contested divorce case.

“Sometimes I think the actions you take in the beginning of a divorce are most important,” Morton says. “I’ve been doing this long enough that I’m good at thinking outside the box. If there’s a way to get a case settled without going to court, I’m open to it.

“Mediation is what I always recommend rather than watch the parties and their children dragged through the courts.”
Morton Family Law LLC
158 W. Gay Street, Suite 202
West Chester, PA 19380
Phone:  610-692-3999