Breaking up is difficult – even more so for married couples. Kids, property, and finances come into play. One of a couple’s first options when breaking up should be divorce mediation, during which the pair works out the disagreements without a third-party judge or the expense of a formal court process.
If you’re considering an amicable split, then you should know:
- What divorce mediation is, and what it does for divorce and separation;
- Possible advantages of mediation, such as “fairness” and comparative low cost; and
- The mediation process itself, so you know what to expect.
What is Divorce Mediation?
Simply put, a process to work out the details of a divorce. The marriage is over. But, who gets the house, custody of the kids, alimony, and visitation schedules need working out.
Divorce mediation is voluntary, but may be ordered by the court. It is also less expensive than going to court. Plus, it promotes positive dispute resolution. Not adversarial procedures, like hearings in court.
A mediator may or may not be an attorney. Couples can include their lawyer in the mediation if they have one. Mediation usually takes more than one session. So, even if not represented there is still an opportunity to consult with an attorney.
In fact, many mediators encourage couples to seek advice. Never a bad thing to have a legal expert look over a possible legal binding document. Such as a Marital Settlement Agreement.
Although divorce does tend to lend itself to mediation there are times the court is necessary. Situations that include abuse or violence, a partner who is unwilling to negotiate, or severe animosity may require court interference.
Divorce mediation works when a couple wants a civil process, are considering joint or shared custody, cost is an issue, or the couple wants control over how the divorce gets worked out.
The goal of divorce mediation is to come to an agreement decided upon by the couple.
Creating a Fair Divorce Through Mediation
One advantage to mediating a divorce, it creates a fair process for both parties to work toward a resolution. The mediator will always be an unbiased third-party. They have no vested interest in the outcome. That detachment allows them to see solutions that are not clear to the couple because of the emotions involved in the breakup.
There is also that cost benefit, too. Since divorce mediation does not involve the court (if it wasn’t ordered) there are no court costs, and possibly no attorney fees. (We do not recommend going it alone without representation since it can lead to unfair agreements.)
Plus, staying out of court makes the process faster. There is no trying to fit your divorce into the courts already busy calendar. A few mediation sessions scheduled around the couples’ calendar can lead to a resolution.
And ultimately, the couple chooses the terms that best work for them in child custody, distribution of property, child support, visitation, alimony, and more. Leaving control of the divorce to them, not a judge. Who knows what is better for you, a judge or yourself?
Also, mediation is private, so no airing of dirty laundry to the public as in a court case.
A nice advantage for sure, but how does divorce mediation work? What is involved in the process?
5 Simple Stages to Divorce Mediation
The process happens in stages rather than steps. Any of the stages can be repeated during mediations. And not all stages happen in one mediation session. It is a process after all.
Here are the five basic stages of divorce mediation.
Divorce Mediation Stage #1: Introduction
This stage will always begin the mediation process. A mediator will first describe the process, then each party gets to state their side of the story.
Here, the couple first assesses what they agree and disagree on as far as the divorce. This starting point helps to guide the agenda of the mediation.
Divorce Mediation Stage #2: Information Gathering
For mediation to work, all the facts must be laid out. At this stage, the couple shows everything they have, including:
- All financial records, from checking accounts to savings bonds to retirement funds;
- Any information on real estate or other valuable property and assets – including pets! – and
- Any records relating to any kids involved.
Once all the information is on the table, the mediation can truly start. (This stage can occur prior to the introduction.)
Divorce Mediation Stage #3: Negotiation
Now that the important issues are known the couple can begin to negotiate a fair settlement. They will explore and check all options until narrowed down to ones that work for them both.
Getting to the final options involves compromise and concessions from both, too.
Divorce Mediation Stage #4: Shaping the Agreement
The mediator “shapes” the needs and interests of the couple. Helping a resolution of the issues that addresses each persons’ most important interests.
Many interests are involved in divorce and shaping the agreement to focus on the core issues keeps the mediation focused. That way a compromise is something each spouse can live with in the long run.
Divorce Mediation Stage #5: Signing and Filing
Finally, with the nitty gritty details worked out an agreement gets drafted. This document is tentative, as it needs looked at by a lawyer before completion and signing.
If there are no issues or disagreements about the draft, then it is filed with the court as part of a now un-contested divorce.
Divorce mediation helps spouses deal with the breakup in a productive and positive environment. By ending a significant stage of their lives on a positive note, each participant can find hope in a brighter future without any hiccups because of an old relationship.
Divorce mediation is often the right choice for a harmonious life after divorce.The Law Office of James E. Crawford, Jr. & Associates, LLC team of family attorneys can help mediate a peaceful resolution beneficial to everyone. Learn how with a free initial consultation.
It’s time to move on, with as little baggage as possible. We can show you how.