What Is Divorce Mediation?
Divorce mediation allows couples who are divorcing a process to meet with neutral third-parties serving as specially trained mediators to resolve common divorce issues out of court. Mediation is far less stressful and expensive than a divorce trial. it also is usually a far faster route because your spouse and you have the last say over the matters of your divorce as opposed to asking a judge to decide. Most couples “mediate out” of their divorce cases in less than half the time and expense typically incurred in a conventional court house litigated divorce case.
When there was a lack of communication, perhaps partially responsible for the demise of the relationship, mediation gives you both the chance to rebuild your skills of communication. Even the most trained professional can help couples with poor communication skills achieve a successful negotiation. Most mediations start and wrap up in one day. The Rule 69 agreement you sign at the end of your mediation is 100% binding the instant you walk out the door. There is no “do over” or second chances to mediate again the following day if you both sign a final agreement.
How Do Parents Choose A Mediator?
Undoubtedly when children are involved, divorce becomes more complicated. The parents will have to find a mediator who can deal with issues like:
- Child custody.
- Child support.
Your divorce mediator will need to have well-developed skills in conflict resolution and have extensive knowledge of the divorce laws in your state. The mediator can also help to facilitate meaningful conversations between the spouses and minimize the drama that can come with a divorce. A mediator can keep the conversation on track and point you towards a resolution for outstanding issues. Nonetheless, the mediator cannot make decisions on your behalf or insist on any partner signs a contract or accepts a certain term. Nobody is forced to sign a final agreement at mediation, you can “Sleep on it” if you so choose.
How Does Divorce Mediation Work?
In most states, mediation is voluntary and once the mediation process commences a spouse can bring it to a close if they want or continue to proceed with the litigation instead. Should they bring the mediation to a close the traditional divorce route is usually followed as a court will not force a spouse to take part in mediation if they do not have the desire to do so. However, in some states, the court wishes the couple to demonstrate they have made good faith efforts to go through the mediation process before proceeding with further hearings at the court. To that end, some judges will divert you to mediation prior to giving you a formal trial date.
Mediation can only work if both spouses are willing to negotiate the terms of the divorce. Usually, there will be an initial meeting between the mediator and the spouses. At the first meeting, each spouse will then have the chance to express their expectations for the most common divorce-related issues, such as:
- Division of property.
- Visitation and child custody.
- Child support.
- Spousal maintenance or alimony.
The mediator will gain an idea from the initial discussion of how far apart the spouses are and what areas will need further development before resolution.
Mediation does not have a time limit except for legal statutory limitations of divorce. Put another way, mediation can continue for as long as required to reach a compromise. Obviously the longer it takes, the more expensive it becomes. Whether you meet weekly, monthly or other times. Most couples can complete the process in one or a few sessions costing thousands of dollars less than having to go to the court and litigate.
Once the outstanding issues have been agreed, the mediator will draft a settlement of divorce agreement for both spouses (and their attorneys) to sign, review and present to the judge. Typically judges will “rubber stamp” and approve 99% of mediated agreements brought to them.
Will Divorce Mediation Work For Me?
There is no doubt many spouses find mediation helpful in the divorce process and allows them to obtain a divorce with as little pain as possible. However, mediation can only work if you and your spouse agree to compromise. You are far more likely to have a mediation that is successful if most or all the following statements are true.
Your Spouse & You Agree To Divorce
Divorces are not always contentious and if the decision to divorce is one that has been mutually agreed, a petition for divorce can be filed together or one spouse can file with the other spouse’s advance knowledge. This makes the process far easier to negotiate and work together to find solutions for outstanding issues in the mediation process.
There Is No History Of Domestic Violence
During divorce mediation, it is essential for frequent meetings between the two spouses, the mediator, and possibly attorneys. If there is a history of domestic abuse between spouses, many mediators will not accept the case as it is tough to keep both spouses working together and presents a challenge to the mediator if they must determine if the victim of the settlement because of intimidation or fear from the abuser. In the states where mediation is a requirement, if a history of physical violence can be demonstrated, the court will excuse you from these mandatory mediation sessions.
Both Spouses Are Forthcoming About Finances
Finances are one of the most complicated parts of any divorce process. Both spouses must be happy to provide the other with complete financial information, including sensitive information, relating to pensions, stocks, retirements, bank accounts, and other debts and assets. In many marriages usually, one partner is more familiar with family liabilities and assets than the other. You will need all the relevant financial info or must investigate and understand marital estate before you agree to the terms of a proposed property settlement. This process standing alone, can take several months to complete, before a meaningful mediation session can occur.
You Agree On Custody Terms
Next to finances, visitation and child custody can be the most challenging aspect in divorce cases. For the sake of the children, most parents can set aside their differences – however, sometimes even the best of intentions are met with other complications and further issues.
Divorce mediation is a great way to work with your future co-parent when deciding who should care for the children daily, who should be responsible for the payment of child support and the frequency and type of visitation the non-custodial parent will have.
Undoubtedly, parents know what is best for their children and the most effective way of ensuring your divorce judgment to protect the best interest of the children and to negotiate the terms for custody with your spouse. If a roadblock is reached in the discussion of custody, the mediator will be able to offer suggestions or advice on how to resolve the issues without asking the court for help.
You will need the intervention of the court if your spouse and you disagree on custody, especially when there are allegations of neglect or abuse. The court can determine the arrangement that will be in your child’s best interests by utilizing the custody process of your state before the judge makes a final decision. There will be a winner and a loser when parties force cases back into the court room.