What You Should Know About Divorce Mediation
Divorce mediation is among the most commonly used method of bargaining a divorce settlement. In divorce mediation, you as a divorcing couple or, in certain instances, both of you and your divorce attorneys hire a neutral third person, known as a mediator, to sit down with you in an attempt to discuss and ultimately agree upon the terms of your divorce. Mediation can be a very effective process and can help the divorcing couple to get the best agreement possible. If your marriage is coming to an end, mediation can offer a way to reach an agreement that satisfies your needs as a couple and the needs of your children. There are certain facts you should know about divorce mediation before deciding to try it in your situation.
No matter how amicable the terms of your divorce agreement, divorce mediation is still a two-way street. You will have to come to the table with your concerns and desires clearly stated in order for your negotiations to be successful. The mediator cannot give you legal advice, nor can he or she tell you what is right or wrong, and he or she cannot tell you what, if anything, is not legally valid. Because mediation is a negotiation, it is not uncommon for people to feel intimidated by their spouse’s attorney, so it is advised that you bring a friend or trusted advisor to the table.
Before beginning divorce mediation, make sure both you and the other spouse fully understand how the process works, including all of the applicable rules and laws. If one spouse requests a trial, the other spouse must tell the court that a trial will not be necessary; however, if one spouse does not request a trial, then the mediator may decide on a settlement based upon what is presented to him or her at the time. Both you and the other spouse must be completely honest throughout the process in order to ensure that everyone remains peaceful.
If one spouse does not want a trial, the divorce mediation process can also be shortened. The courts are aware that couples prefer this alternative, so they often prefer to have the mediation sessions begin and end with parties working voluntarily out their issues instead of opting for a lengthy trial. Some judges do not even require a jury trial in some instances, as the parties may come to a conclusion together regarding settlement without ever appearing before a judge. In cases where divorce mediation is required, most courts require that the attorneys meet individually with the mediators prior to the meeting, so attorneys know what topics will be covered.
Sometimes divorce mediation is used to resolve a wide range of divorce-related issues, including: spousal support (alimony), child custody (visitation rights), division of assets (inheritance, divorce property), child support, child visitation, issues regarding ex-spouses’ current employment, issues regarding children from previous relationships, issues regarding prenuptial agreements, and many other divorce-related issues. Mediation can be extremely helpful when spouses are unable or unwilling to agree on terms regarding their divorce. By utilizing the expertise of a neutral party to mediate the dispute, both sides may learn how to communicate more effectively and reach a resolution that is beneficial to everyone.
During divorce mediation, both parties are provided with an “amicus” or legal counsel. This individual serves as a neutral party and is there to provide information and representation based on their professional opinion of the matter. In cases involving child custody, the spouse filing for custody will present their legal documents, and the other spouse will present their documentation outlining their financial situation. If a trial would be required, either spouse may make an exhibit list to the court or use a deposition to make their side known.
A judge may choose to utilize the services of divorce mediation when there are numerous issues to consider. For instance, if one spouse is fearful of spousal or child support, or if there may be a question as to whether or not a partner suffered from domestic violence in the past. In addition, divorce mediation may be used when one spouse is fearful of a hostile judge. It is also sometimes used when one party is fearful of a collaborative approach. Many people that choose to go to a divorce mediation instead of a trial or to remain in a marriage where issues cannot be resolved prefer this type of settlement over divorce.
Divorce mediation can be extremely helpful, but the divorcing spouses must be willing to communicate with their attorneys. If one spouse refuses to communicate with their attorneys, the judge may choose to have another person to preside over the matter. As long as all parties are agreeable, a judge will take into consideration what the spouses have agreed to and what they feel will benefit them or their children after the divorce is final. If both spouses can work together to present a settlement that benefits them, they will often do just that.