Fighting out a divorce in court can get messy and expensive. Some spouses can avoid a contentious divorce by going through mediation. Mediation is an alternative to court proceedings where you can come up with your own solutions for a divorce agreement without leaving it up to a judge.
Divorce law and divorce mediation options are different in every state. If you want to find out more about divorce mediation and if it can work for you, talk to a local attorney handling divorce mediation for legal advice.
The divorce mediation process is a dispute resolution process where you and your spouse can settle your divorce issues. In mediation, you sit down with a neutral third-party mediator, to discuss the issues you can’t agree on, including:
If you reach an agreement, the mediator will write up the agreement called a divorce settlement agreement. Each of you will sign the agreement and the agreement will be enforceable.
Many divorcing couples can be amicable in their separation when they decide to part ways. Parents with children want to have a good co-parenting relationship for their children’s benefit. However, they may still have disagreements about parenting time schedules. If this sounds like your situation, you can go to a mediation session to work out a parenting plan that works for both of you.
Mediation can be done by agreement, known as “private mediation,” or it can be a court-ordered mediation session. The process for each is generally the same, but in private mediation, parties are doing it voluntarily. In court-ordered, a family law judge tells the exes to attend the mediation session.
There are benefits and drawbacks to mediation. One major benefit of mediation is that you have more control over the divorce process. You and your spouse know more about your lives than any judge ever will. A judge only sees a brief snapshot of your life and what is important to each of you. Going through mediation allows you to explore options to reach a mediated agreement.
Mediation is also confidential. The mediator must keep what is said during the mediation session private. If you go to court, court hearings are part of the public record. One of the only exceptions is if the mediator learns of child abuse or neglect. They may be legally required to report child abuse to social services.
Mediation is not just for people going through the divorce process. Mediation can also work for unmarried parents to work out custody and parenting plans.
People who are already divorced can also use mediation services post-divorce. For example, since the divorce, one of the parents may have had a job change or moved to a different state, requiring the parents to redo their parenting plan.
Another major benefit of mediation is the cost. The mediator will charge fees for their services, but you may be able to resolve your dispute in a day or two, instead of drawing out a trial for weeks or longer. Going to mediation can save thousands of dollars.
In some states, there may be laws that prohibit a judge from ordering a survivor of domestic violence to attend mediation with their abuser.
Another downside is that not every mediation is a successful mediation. It does happen that you might not be able to reach an agreement and still have to go to court to fully settle the divorce. Going to court after failed mediation may require hiring a divorce lawyer, paying attorney fees, and waiting months before your divorce case is finally settled.
You may also have to pay an upfront cost for mediation, even if the overall total cost is lower than litigation. A mediator may charge by the hour or offer a package for a maximum amount of time fixed at one price. If the mediation session goes over that set amount of hours, the mediator may have an hourly rate for each additional hour.
There are a lot of benefits to attending mediation. Most mediators do not require referrals before scheduling a session, and you can reach out through your attorney to schedule mediation. If you want to find out more about alternatives to court in a divorce, talk to a divorce attorney or family law attorney about your options.
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