Divorce mediation offers couples a calmer way to settle disputes

Going through a divorce is one of the most difficult experiences a person can have in life. Long fights over child custody and property division in an emotionally charged environment can quickly feel like a hopeless situation. Although such an environment can sometimes happen during the divorce process, it does not have to be this way. To avoid a contentious process, many couples now choose mediation, rather than divorce litigation, as a way of settling their disputes.

How divorce mediation works

During divorce mediation, divorcing couples settle their disputes outside of court in a more collaborative environment using a neutral third party called a mediator. Unlike a judge in court, the mediator does not hand down decisions, but acts as a person who gives guidance to the couple, allowing them to reach their own decisions. During the process, the mediator may offer solutions to help the couple reach a decision, but does not determine which party is right or wrong.

During the mediation process, almost any divorce-related issue (e.g. child custody, property division and spousal maintenance) can be resolved. Each party has the right to have an attorney present for advice during the mediation process. However, it is ultimately up to the couple to reach a decision.

The mediation process works through a series of meetings with the mediator. The couple typically meets with the mediator together at the beginning of the process. If they are unable to reach a decision, each party has the option of meeting with the mediator individually, which allows each spouse to speak of the issues privately.

If the parties reach an agreement, the mediator puts it in writing to be signed by each spouse. The agreement is then filed with the court and becomes binding. However, if no agreement is reached, the parties go to court to litigate the issues, which will ultimately be decided by a judge. If the case is litigated, nothing that was said during the mediation process affects the outcome of the court's decision.

Benefits of Mediation

Divorce mediation is not right for every situation (e.g. in cases of domestic violence or abuse). However, it offers several benefits over litigation. For one, mediation is much less expensive than litigation and often allows the party to obtain a faster resolution of the issues. Litigation, on the other hand, is often expensive and can take a year or more just for the case to get to court.

In addition, mediation allows the couple, not the judge, to be in control of the outcome. The process gives the couple the opportunity to come up with creative solutions to the issues, rather than be bound by the rigid court-obtained solutions. As a result, many couples that go through mediation find that the results are more satisfying. Because of this, couples that resolve their disputes through mediation are usually more likely to stick to the agreement.

If you are interested in learning more about divorce mediation, contact an experienced family law attorney. An attorney can assess whether mediation is right for you and guide you through the process.