A separation and subsequent divorce can be a difficult situation for both people involved. There are often feelings of anger or blame by one or both parties. The process of ending a marriage is often a very emotional, lengthy process. Going through a divorce can involve court hearings, discovery, and even a costly trial, however, the process can be made easier with divorce mediation.
What is Divorce Mediation?
Instead of going the traditional divorce path, some couples choose to go to divorce mediation. Divorce mediation involves the couple meeting with a neutral third-party mediator to talk about and resolve their issues. The advantages of mediation are that it is less expensive than a court trial and a resolution can usually be reached faster. Instead of relinquishing power to a judge, couples can still have some control over matters in their divorce.
Another benefit of choosing mediation over a court trial is that both spouses can work on their communication skills with the help of a trained professional to come to an agreement that is fair to both. Even those couples that had failed communication during their marriage can find mediation beneficial in helping to express their views.
What is Involved in the Mediation Process?
Mediation can differ slightly for every couple, based on how many issues they need help resolving. Mediation can begin once both spouses agree to use it as a way to resolve issues instead of going to court. Most states do not force couples to go through mediation so if one party wants to go through a trial, the court will not require mediation. However, there are some states where the court suggests the couple go to mediation before any additional court hearings are scheduled.
Mediation is most successful if both parties are willing to negotiate in the divorce. The first meeting is usually between both spouses and the mediator. During this initial meeting, each spouse has the opportunity to explain what they desire from the divorce, including child custody and support, property division and alimony.
This initial meeting gives the mediator an idea of how much the spouses need to compromise to reach an agreement. Spouses can mediate for as long as they, or the mediator, feels necessary. Spouses can meet with the mediator weekly, monthly, or any other frequency that works given the situation, but the more meetings that occur, the more expensive it is. The majority of couples are able to reach a resolution within a few sessions, which costs significantly less than a court trial.
Once an agreement is reached, the mediator will create an agreement that both spouses can review with their attorneys. Once each spouse signs it, it will be presented to a judge.
What Should Parents Consider in a Mediator?
Parents who are divorcing have special considerations with their children. A divorce certainly becomes more complicated when children are involved. Parents who want to divorce should find a mediator who specializes in issues that involve children like custody, visitation, and child support.
In addition, the mediator should have knowledge of the divorce laws regarding children in your state. The mediator should be able to work with both parties to create a common ground from which conversations can be had. This usually helps to get rid of some of the anger and resentment. Mediators can help you resolve issues to come to a settlement that works for everyone. However, the mediator cannot make decisions for either party or force one spouse to sign a contract.
Will Divorce Mediation Work for Me?
Some couples are able to resolve their divorce issues with a mediator and avoid the conflict and drama that can surround a court trial. Mediation works when both spouses are willing to work together to come to a resolution. Mediation works well if:
- Both Parties Want to Divorce. Some divorces are amicable. If both you and your spouse are on the same page about a divorce, you can file for divorce together. It is also possible for one to file with the other’s knowledge. In this situation, it is easier to work towards a divorce settlement.
- There are No Abuse Issues. Couples with domestic abuse issues cannot usually be seen by mediators. It is difficult for the mediator to determine if the victim agrees to the settlement or if he or she feels intimidation from the other spouse. Those states that require mediation will make an exception if there is a history of domestic violence.
- The Spouses Provide Financial Information Readily. Many couples that are ending their marriage argue about finances. During a divorce, each spouse must provide financial information such as bank accounts, retirement or pension funds, stocks, and other assets. Most often, one spouse is more knowledgeable about the financial situation of the family. If one spouse is withholding information, research will need to be done before a settlement can be reached.
- There are no Custody Problems. Child custody and visitation schedules can make for very complicated divorce terms. When parents can come together and agree on child custody, the process is a lot smoother. Mediation can help decide on a schedule for the children between the parents and which parent will pay child support. The custody terms can be discussed with the children’s best interests in mind. A mediator will be able to offer suggestions without having to go to court. The court will need to intervene if the couple is unable to agree on a custody agreement.
Mediation might be an option for you and your spouse if you are both in favor of divorcing. It works best for spouses that are in agreement about many of the issues surrounding their divorce. If you and your spouse can avoid a court trial, you may be able to reach a resolution much quicker, at a lower expense, and with much less stress, which is beneficial for everyone.
Take Control of Your Future
When you consider divorce, or if you know someone who is contemplating divorce, one of the biggest realities for those in the divorce process is the financial settlement and financial analysis post-divorce. Get the assistance of Caroline Pak, a Mediator and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® (CDFA®).
Caroline provides step-by-step guidance on matters related to divorce. With a wide range of experience and expertise related to divorce financial issues, Caroline will simplify the process and provide much-needed clarity in areas such as long-term tax consequences, asset and debt analysis, dividing pension plans, continued health care coverage, stock option elections, protecting support with life insurance, and much more.