FindLaw KnowledgeBasePublished: 2012-04-20
The end of a marriage can be a very stressful experience. Negative feelings such as anger, regret and revenge, rather than a focus on resolution, can dominate negotiations. One way to counter this tendency and ensure that a marriage ends with both parties feeling that their interests have been heard is through mediation in divorce cases, with the additional benefit that it can lower the costs of divorce exponentially.
What is Mediation?
Mediation is a voluntary process with an impartial third party, a family mediator who is most often an attorney. The mediator helps identify, clarify and come to an agreement on the major issues between a divorcing couple — especially their post-divorce parental duties if there are children, and settlement of marital property and debt. Each parent has the right to retain their own lawyer during this process, but the goal of everyone involved is to avoid the emotional and financial costs of pursuing divorce in court. Rather than fighting against each other, the couple can work together to reach agreement. Mediation services in fact are available not only for divorce, but also in paternity, custody, support and visitation cases.
The mediator’s role is not to fix existing problems with a marriage or to force both parties to agree. Rather, a mediator assists and guides the parties toward settlement in the proposed divorce by acting as an intermediary. A mediator may offer opinions or makes neutral suggestions but never takes a side or forces one party to agree.
Advantages of Mediation
- It saves each party time and money: Divorce litigation is usually three or four times more expensive than mediation, and is often prolonged. If you and your spouse can sit in the same room together and talk, mediation may be the right process for you.
- The mediator/attorney will prepare all of the paperwork related to the divorce, so that the parties can present a completed settlement to the Court for approval.
- It is fair and impartial: The mediator stands to gain nothing from the outcome, so the objective mediator may see solutions that the parties haven’t considered.
- The process is confidential: Any written notes by the mediator are disposed of and cannot be used later in court
- Mediation reduces the spouses’ emotional turmoil: Rather than “winning and losing,” the spouses reach mutually agreeable terms
- It prevents the children from being caught in the middle: Children are not the subject of bargaining tools in a public courtroom
Mediation can often be completed over the course of three or four sessions, spread out over at least a month or two. An agreement reached through mediation is enforceable by the courts and will result in a divorce judgment on the public record, which is enforceable just as any other divorce judgment.
If the mediation process appeals to you, speak to a divorce lawyer with experience in mediation divorce cases to discuss your situation.