Most people tend to assume that divorce proceedings require lawyers, court, and a great deal of money. This isn’t necessarily true. In most states, divorcing couples may instead choose mediation over court litigation.
Why Choose Mediation?
There are several good reasons to choose mediation. Among these are cost, emotional stress, and time.
It’s estimated that a mediated divorce costs considerably less than a typical divorce. The entire cost of mediation is usually less than the retainer required from a single lawyer. While parties may individually consult a lawyer regarding certain issues if necessary, use of a lawyer is not required. For purely practical considerations, a smaller fee to accomplish the actual divorce leaves more money to be dispersed between the divorcing parties. This can make an important difference in helping start up a new, single life, especially if one of the involved partners has been relying on the other’s income.
Another savings comes in the form of reduced emotional stress. Court proceedings tend to pit one party against the other in a confrontational manner that can be extremely difficult for those involved. Mediation uses interspace negotiation techniques, in which the mediator considers the needs of both parties and works toward a common ground rather than taking one side or the other and fighting toward one party’s desires over the other’s.
Mediation can also greatly reduce the emotional stress on any children involved. Struggles over custody agreements that could take a huge toll on children if they’re played out in court can often be settled much more amicably in the environment of mediation, where both parents are given time to express their own opinions and needs regarding custody.
Mediation generally takes much less time than court proceedings, as well. Most divorces can be negotiated in mediation in three or four sessions over a period of a few weeks, as opposed to a long, drawn-out court battle. Because the atmosphere of mediation is cooperative rather than confrontational, differences are often settled more easily.
Some people assume that mediation can allow one party to dominate over the other during proceedings. This is not true. The mediator works to find a middle ground between parties and makes sure they can reach an equitable agreement. Mediators also ensure the agreement will stand up in court, which it would not if it weren’t fair to both parties.
Perhaps the most important benefit of mediation is that the divorcing parties can come to their own decisions regarding disbursement of goods, money, and custody of their children, rather than leaving these decisions to a judge. Because the agreement is worked out between the parties, it is more likely to be honored and workable in the long term.
What is the Mediation Process?
Divorce mediation generally involves an initial meeting followed by a series of appointments to work out the details of the divorce, and a final meeting in which the divorcing parties agree to the final, formal agreement.
In the initial meeting, the divorcing parties discuss their goals with the mediator. The mediator will offer an agreement that explains his role in the negotiations, and will usually give his clients a list of information to bring in for the next meeting. This usually includes financial information, as well as any other legal papers the mediator will require.
The number of subsequent appointments will depend on the complexity of the case and how long it takes to reach a final compromise. When all issues have been satisfactorily resolved, the mediator will draw up a final agreement that includes all the items that have been agreed upon throughout the mediation sessions. The parties may have this agreement reviewed by an attorney if they so choose. The agreement is then submitted to the state court, and once it is approved and signed by a judge, the divorce is considered final.
Choosing mediation over litigation is a personal decision to be made by the parties involved. However, it’s very important to consider all your available options before initiating divorce proceedings. If you are willing to communicate with the other party involved, mediation is, more often than not, the best option for everyone involved.