The goal of a divorce is to dissolve a marriage. While that goal may be simple, the divorce process is often complex. State laws vary concerning when a person can get a divorce, and couples may find it harder to compromise on certain issues than they thought.
Every state in the U.S. now allows no-fault divorce, which does not require a court to find that spousal misconduct, adultery, or abuse occurred. Instead, the court may grant a divorce on grounds of irreconcilable differences or a finding that the marriage relationship is no longer viable.
While you may be assured that a divorce is possible, you still need to figure out the terms of the divorce, including:
- Child support
- Child custody
- Property division
If you and your spouse are unable to come to an agreement about these decisions, then the court will make the decisions for you. Many divorcing couples want to maintain as much control over these decisions as possible. That is why many choose to enter divorce mediation to work out an agreement to present to a judge.
Divorce mediation involves you and your spouse meeting with a mediator, a neutral third party who helps you work through a divorce settlement. A mediator will gather information from both sides, analyze the information and help you reach a fair settlement. The mediation process may occur in one session or multiple sessions. Both you and your spouse can each have lawyers present as well.
A divorce mediator is a trained professional who knows how to help divorcing couples find compromise. It is easy to lose yourself to the stress and emotion of the divorce process, but a mediator helps to keep you focused on finding a resolution that you can live with.
Divorce mediation has a number of benefits. These include:
- You will remain in control: Mediation allows you to make important decisions on issues like dividing assets, alimony, child support, and custody. These decisions will fundamentally affect you and your children, so being in control of the process (instead of leaving it to the court system), is better.
- It is not binding: A divorce agreement that you create is not binding unless both you and your spouse agree to it. Unlike in court, if you do not agree with the outcome of the mediation, then you do not have to sign it. You still have the right to go to court.
- You can negotiate on selected issues: It is important to note that most mediation agreements are not all-or-nothing agreements. For example, if you reach agreements regarding property division, alimony, and child support but not custody, then most courts will accept your mediated divorce agreement in those areas and only rule on the custody issue.
- It is less costly in time and money: Divorce mediation is typically less expensive than going to court because it requires less time from the attorneys.
- Easier post-divorce relationship: If you and your spouse have children, you will have an ongoing need to communicate. Learning to negotiate with one another and building a post-divorce working relationship that allows you to communicate effectively will benefit both you and your children.
While divorce mediation is appropriate in most cases for the reasons described above, there may be situations when it is not appropriate. For example, if you are intimidated by or fearful of your spouse because of actual or the threat of domestic violence, then it may be better to assert your interests in court. In such cases, while mediation may still work, it is important that you have your own family law attorney representing you.
A divorce is often difficult, emotionally, financially, and legally. Mediation does not take away all of the difficulties, but it does allow spouses to communicate with each other and to walk away with a negotiated settlement agreement that they both approved of, allowing them to start working on their future. This option could be right for your divorce as well.
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