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Your Guide to Divorce Mediation: Exploring Definitions, Pros, and Cons by Robert Samimrad

Defining Divorce Mediation

Divorce mediation is a collaborative and efficient process designed for couples seeking a fair and amicable separation. With a neutral third-party professional known as a mediator, spouses can have greater control over the outcome while focusing on reaching a fair settlement without resentment from past issues

Robert Samimrad share on the pros and cons of divorce mediation.
Certified Senior Mediator

Divorce mediation encompasses several critical aspects, including the division of assets, custody arrangements, and spousal and child support. Compared to traditional divorce proceedings, mediation is faster, less expensive, and less contentious, reducing the stress and trauma of the divorce process. Furthermore, it may also facilitate better co-parenting after divorce. Additionally, mediation often serves as a "one-stop" solution as the mediator prepares the entire divorce settlement agreement and provides all necessary paperwork for the court to finalize the divorce.


How is Divorce Mediation Distinguished from Traditional Divorce? Many people consider divorce mediation as a better option than a traditional divorce process because of its fundamental differences. In divorce mediation, the process is collaborative and non-adversarial. This differs from a traditional divorce, where lawyers represent spouses against each other. In mediation, couples work together with the assistance of a neutral third party to come up with an agreement that fits their family's unique situation. Unlike traditional divorce, couples who opt for mediation often don't need to make court appearances. Additionally, divorce mediation is generally quicker than traditional divorce, which can last at least a year or longer. The mediation process can be completed as quickly as the couple desires. Mediation also provides spouses with flexibility to cost-effectively reach agreements when dealing with complex circumstances. For instance, if a couple owns a family business, they might want to create an arrangement that allows both spouses to remain involved in the business. Working with a mediator and other business advisors, they can convert their vision into the necessary legal documents to protect both parties. Conversely, the traditional divorce process typically aims to sever all assets at the time of divorce. However, your family may require more flexibility due to unique circumstances. Mediation also permits more creative parenting agreements. In comparison, courts typically default to the standard every-other-weekend and one-night-per-week arrangements.


Is Hiring a Lawyer Necessary During Divorce Mediation?

Mediators inform their clients that they have the right to engage a lawyer, and in most cases, they encourage or require each spouse to do so. These attorneys offer legal counsel and review the final settlement agreement before it is presented to the court. However, they have limited involvement and do not take part in the negotiations or court appearances. This is a significant advantage of the mediation process, which can save couples thousands of dollars.

Even if mediation fails, it can still be a cost-effective option. If the couple decides to abandon mediation and hire litigation lawyers, they may find themselves better prepared and have some of the necessary information the attorney needs, making it easier to move the case forward quickly. The failed mediation will still reduce legal costs for each of them.

What Role Does a Mediator Play in Divorce?

The primary responsibility of a divorce mediator is to facilitate communication between divorcing spouses and guide them in making decisions about:

  • Which assets need to be divided

  • How the assets will be divided

  • What custody arrangement is appropriate for the family, and how to transform that arrangement into legal language for the settlement agreement

  • Whether spousal support, alimony, or child support is necessary, and how to determine the amounts

Additionally, a mediator may provide information about how the traditional divorce process works in your state. However, their role is not to represent either spouse in court or to advocate for one side. For legal guidance and advice on the divorce process, you can consult with your individual lawyer.

It's important to note that a mediator is not a judge or arbitrator and does not have the authority to make the final decisions for you. Couples who expect the mediator to dictate their decisions will likely be disappointed with the process. Instead, the mediator will help you and your spouse identify various options and assist in making the best decisions for your unique situation.

Discussions during mediation are confidential, and if one or both parties decide to proceed with court, the mediator cannot be called as a witness for either spouse in most jurisdictions.


How Long Does the Divorce Mediation Process Take?

One of the benefits of divorce mediation is that the timeline is ultimately under the control of the divorcing spouses themselves. The process can proceed at a pace that suits their needs and is not dictated by busy court schedules or legal deadlines.

This flexibility also enables couples to take the time required to discuss critical issues that are essential or pressing for them. For example, some couples may require the initial sessions to help them physically separate and designate new living arrangements. Others may be ready to jump into dividing assets or discussing custody.

However, moving too quickly may add stress to the mediation process, while delaying too long can be detrimental if one spouse wants to move forward and the other is hesitant. If one spouse is uncooperative, the other may feel that they have no option but to switch to a litigated divorce.

The primary goal of mediation is for each couple to reach a comprehensive and fair settlement agreement that addresses all the issues important to them. A mediator will typically consider mediation to be ongoing until a settlement agreement is signed. Your mediator can offer advice and guidance on how often they prefer to meet with their clients.


When is Divorce Mediation Inappropriate?

While divorce mediation is a viable option for many couples, it may not be appropriate for every situation.

One disadvantage of divorce mediation is that it is generally not recommended in cases where there is a history of domestic violence. Domestic violence suggests an extreme power imbalance between the spouses, making mediation challenging.

For mediation to be effective, both parties must feel comfortable speaking candidly in front of the mediator and each other. The mediator ensures that communication remains respectful and cordial while also building momentum towards a settlement by highlighting areas of mutual agreement and resolving areas of disagreement.

However, if one spouse is hesitant to speak freely or fears retaliation, mediation may not be appropriate.

Additionally, for mediation to succeed, both parties must feel confident that they are making full disclosures of all financial assets. The mediator will instruct the spouses on what financial information to provide, but if either spouse doubts the other's honesty, mediation may not be the best choice.

If your marriage does not involve domestic violence and you are confident in your knowledge of your family's assets, mediation is a promising option.

Other Benefits of Mediation

Apart from being more cost-effective, faster, and more flexible than traditional divorce litigation, divorce mediation helps couples cooperatively end their marriage by reducing conflict. The focus is on making decisions together rather than fighting against each other, reducing hostility and stress.

Mediation also helps parents co-parent after divorce by creating a parenting plan tailored to their needs and schedules. Additionally, mediation models cooperative behavior, teaching children how their parents work together.

Couples who mediate also learn conflict-resolution skills, enabling them to resolve future disagreements over custody, payments, or other matters without having to go back to court.

Conclusion

Divorce mediation is a viable alternative for most couples facing divorce. If you're separating in 2023, consulting a mediator at the beginning of the separation may be key to keeping your divorce out of the courthouse and saving thousands of dollars in legal fees.

Although mediation may not be suitable for every couple, those who complete the process successfully are generally able to divorce faster, more affordably, and with less emotional turmoil than those who opt for the traditional divorce system.


By Robert Samimrad


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