Divorce mediation is a process whereby a husband and wife attempt to reach a resolution of the issues involved in their case with the help of a neutral third party, rather than entering into litigation. Many times, the mediator is an attorney who will facilitate discussions between both parties in order to come to an arrangement which is accepted by both parties.
The Mediation Process
Identifying the Issues – The first step in any mediation is to identify the issues that need to be addressed. These can include child support, alimony, the equitable distribution of assets and debts and custody. Additionally, both parties need to consider parenting time arrangements not only on a daily basis, but also with regards to holidays, vacations, education and medical issues.
Discovery of Information – In order to successfully mediate a divorce case, both parties must participate on a level playing field. Information is key to solving problems and if one party has most of the information, he/she must share that information fully and truthfully.
Several sessions of mediation may be used to gather financial information such as the value of each and every asset and debt as well as the incomes and future expenses of both parties. This information is shared and each issue is explored thoroughly with both parties offering suggestions on how best to resolve that issue. The mediator may also suggest options or alternatives for the parties’ consideration.
Consulting Your Attorney – Each party should consult with an attorney during the mediation process to become familiar with the law and how it applies to their case. Since the mediator does not give legal advice, it is imperative for the parties to seek that advice before entering into any agreement. It is far better to obtain that advice early on, then after the process is finalized.
Obtaining a Property Settlement Agreement – When all of the issues have been resolved between both parties, the mediator drafts a Memorandum of Understanding which sets forth the parties’ agreements. Then, each party will then take it to their attorney to be reviewed and transformed into a Property Settlement Agreement.
Benefits of Mediation vs. Litigation
There are several benefits to mediation as opposed to litigation.
- It is a non-adversarial process. The parties want to solve their problems and maintain their relationship, most often because of the children. Litigation tends to pit the parties against each other, with each digging in their heels and fighting to the death. Mediation is a gentler process.
- It’s a private way of handling the divorce process. Outside intervention is basically limited to the mediator although experts may be consulted to give advice.
- The mediation process will, in all likelihood, be less expensive than litigating the case and the process is faster because it is done on the parties’ time line, not the court’s.
Although there are several benefits to divorce mediation, it’s not right for everyone. Mediation works best for those who recognize they have a dispute, agree on the need to resolve it, and want to actively participate in the process designed to settle their dispute.