If you and your spouse are having trouble hashing out the details of your divorce’s final agreement, then mediation may be a solution to your problems.
Mediation is a process that involves both parties (and sometimes their lawyers) sitting down with a trained, neutral mediator to try and resolve any disputed issues. If successful, this can simplify the divorce process by limiting the time spent fighting in the courtroom and save thousands of dollars in litigation expenses.
Issues such as property division, child custody, child support, alimony, retirement and taxes can all be discussed during mediation, and it is possible for a binding contract to be established. Negotiations can often be difficult for couples whose communication system has broken down or when ideas of a fair agreement are farther apart, but a skilled mediator is able to get around these barriers to create civil dialogue. However, if the parties are unable to reach an agreement, a decision isn’t forced upon them; the matter simply moves to court and a judge will decide the outcome.
It’s kind of similar to how the arbitration process works in baseball: Both sides sit down and submit what they think is a fair deal and continue negotiating right up until a set deadline. Frequently, a suitable agreement can be struck before this date and avoid intervention by a third party arbitrator. However, if a decision can’t be made, the independent arbitrator (or judge in the case of divorce) considers both sides and makes a decision based off the evidence presented. However, divorces can drag on for months, or even years, when issues aren’t resolved amicably.
One of the really nice aspects about mediation is that everything throughout the process is up to the parties involved. They determine the frequency and length of meetings and can adjust the format to accommodate for different comfort levels of either side. The discussions can take place with everyone in one room; however, if that would cause too much tension and conflict, it can take place in separate rooms with the mediator going back and forth to discuss what either side is offering.
This is where the choice of a quality mediator becomes extremely important. A divorce mediator needs to have excellent communication skills to bridge the gaps that commonly exist when a couple is going through a divorce. They should be able to help both parties set emotions to the side, and help come up with mutually beneficial options that are acceptable by each person.
The fact that the mediator is neutral helps assure you will get a fair deal, because they are not working for or against you. One thing to keep in mind, however, is the cost aspect. Like attorneys, mediators charge by the hour, so it is best to work as efficiently as possible towards reaching an agreement. The quicker you can come to reasonable compromises, the more effective mediation becomes at saving you money.
If permitted by your state, it is a good idea to have your attorney present at the mediation session, since the possibility exists for a binding contract to come out of mediation. If that is not allowed, you think attorneys may become a distraction or that it may detract from the negotiation process, extensive preparation with your representative beforehand will really help.
Mediation can be a cost-effective method of settling disputes in your divorce and expedite the process. The less time you have to spend in a court room, the less you will be spending of litigation fees and the faster you can wrap up your final agreement.
If you are having trouble coming to terms on certain details of your divorce, talk to your attorney about the possibility of setting up negotiations with a third-party mediator. A lack of constructive communication can frequently be the reason divorces drag on, and working around any communication barriers is a mediator’s specialty.