Many lawyers today are choosing to embrace a less adversarial model for divorces and are encouraging divorcing couples to resolve financial and family issues as amicably as possible. Divorce mediation is a private, confidential process facilitated by a mediator that gives divorcing couples the right environment to work out the terms of their divorce settlement outside of court.
As long as a couple is committed to the mediation process and trust that the mediator has been trained to help them talk about issues that are difficult discuss, those who choose to have their divorce settlements mediated, usually end up feeling less damaged by the process than those who fight everything out in court.
1. How it Works
Unlike attorneys, mediators are neutral––they don’t interfere with decision making, instead they help divorcing couples focus on solving their problems together and creating a divorce agreement that they both think is fair and they can live with.
In addition, unlike a divorce where each party is represented by an attorney and discouraged from negotiating with each other, mediation sessions are typically conducted with each party present.
The mediator will help the couple come to a resolution on each of the issues that need to be resolved before the couple’s divorce can be finalized:
- The division of assets and debts;
- Child custody;
- Child support;
- Visitation; and
The mediator offers creative suggestions to explore so that the couple doesn’t become stuck and unable to arrive a mutually agreed upon decision. Furthermore, if for any reason communication becomes difficult for the couple, the mediator is trained to reframe disagreements and redirect the couple back towards their goal of finding a solution. Because no two divorces are the same, the number of mediation sessions a couple will need will depend entirely on
- Whether or not they have children,
- The complexity of their financial situation,
- Their ability to separate their emotions from the decisions they have to make.
Generally, however, most couples complete mediation is several weeks. Once a couple has completed mediation, the mediator will prepare a memorandum of understanding (MOU), a formal document that details all of the decisions the couple made during the mediation. If the couple has children, a parenting plan will be part of this memorandum.
Finally, the MOU will be reviewed by the couple’s respective attorney(s) and incorporated into a binding legal agreement that will be signed by both parties and filed with the court for a judge’s approval.
2. Common Misconceptions about Mediation
There are two very common misconceptions about mediation:
- It is only for couples who have agreed on how they want to settle their divorce
- It’s only for couples who cannot agree on how to settle their divorce
Neither of these assumptions is correct. Mediation is for couples who want to retain control over their decision making and ensure that what they agree upon ends up in their final divorce decree. It is also for couples who need help working through their issues, but don’t want to risk taking their problems to court.
What’s important to remember is that mediation fosters cooperation and balance between divorcing couples. Furthermore, it enables them to come through the divorce process feeling that they have made the best decisions for their future, their children’s future, and their future quality of life.
3. Contact an Experienced Divorce Lawyer
For more information on divorce mediation, or for any other questions about your divorce or divorce proceeding in general, contact an experienced divorce lawyer for a confidential, no-cost, no-obligation evaluation of your circumstances.