What is Divorce Mediation? Everything you need to know about divorce mediation

Meditation is one of the most frequently used techniques for negotiating a divorce settlement. In most cases, you and your spouse hire either a lawyer or a neutral third party, called a mediator, to meet with you for the purpose of discussing and resolving the issues pertaining to divorce. The mediator is not responsible for making decisions, but he will serve you as a facilitator to assist you and your spouse in figuring out what’s the best course of action.

While mediation is worth trying for most couples, however, not every couple belongs in mediation. For instance, if domestic violence intervenes in your relationship, then you should consider it carefully before things go out of hand.

Here’s what divorce mediation is and everything that is associated with divorce mediation.

  • What’s in the guide?
  • What is a Divorce Mediation?
  • Stages of mediation
    • Introductory divorce mediation
    • Information gathering stage
    • Framing stage
    • Negotiating stage
    • Concluding stage
  • Collaborative Divorce vs. Mediation
  • How much does divorce mediation cost?
  • Other costs associated with divorce mediation
  • How long after mediation is divorce final?
  • Advantages of Divorce Mediation
  • Disadvantages of divorce mediation
  • What happens after divorce mediation?
  • What happens when the court rejects your agreement?

What is a Divorce Mediation?

Divorce mediation is the process of reaching a mutual agreement or finding solutions to issues that may arise during a divorce process. It is another way of legal process called litigation, which divorcing partners have to go through in family court. During a mediation process, both parties conduct a meeting with a court-appointed Mediator to come to a resolution through negotiation concerning their divorce.

In the mediation process, parties have the chance to discuss the disagreements and reach a point where the conditions become feasible for both. Mediator, on the other hand, helps both parties to resolve conflicts, without forcing them to agree on a certain clause. Mediators act as an intermediary and provide opinions and suggestions according to family laws, but at no point, they are allowed to coerce parties to settle on an agreement.

You may have more than one mediation stage while pursuing your divorce mediation. That solely depends on the circumstances between you and your spouse. Here’s a basic overview of the different stages of mediation that you may go through.

Stages of mediation

Introductory divorce mediation

In the initial stage of mediation, a mediator works to understand the background of the conflicts and lay a foundation to move further in the mediation process. It is also based on how you and your partner communicate about certain issues that pull both of you to this extent. At this stage, a mediator will also review the issues on which you and your spouse can agree or disagree.

Information gathering stage

To have a successful mediation, the mediator needs to be informed about the facts and issues of the case. This is the information-gathering stage that often takes place as the mediation starts.

At this stage, your mediator will also tell you the general state laws about divorce that may include the judge’s authority to divide your assets and debts along with the legal dealing of other issues like insurance and taxes.

Framing stage

In this stage, the mediator assists both parties to outline their interest. Identifying the interest and reasons is necessary because sometimes the interests of both parties overlap and these interests often become the justification of conflicts. This mostly happens when there’s a conflict of child custody for instance.

Negotiating stage

Once the background information and interests are framed, the mediator helps spouses to reach an agreement that benefits both parties. It is the time when spouses negotiate and find an acceptable solution. The final option will be the combination of concessions and compromises from both sides.

Mediators emphasize solving the issues through negotiations and address each option that spouses may reflect in the negotiation stage.

Concluding stage

At this stage, everything that has been agreed is brought into writing, and a copy of the document will be sent to both of the parties to review and sign. If your case is simple, you may ask to sign the document just right after you leave your last mediation session. Otherwise, the mediator will look into the interests of both parties in the light of family law and prepare the memorandum.

There’s no doubt that mediation is a cost-effective and peaceful process. But, what if you don’t want to come in contact with your ex-spouse by any means? There’s an additional legal process for the situation called collaborative divorce.

Collaborative Divorce vs Mediation

 In divorce mediation, attorneys of both parties are not usually required to attend the mediation process, until they wish to involve them. This makes the mediating option preferable for those, who don’t want to involve attorneys and want to discuss things on their own.

On the other hand, Collaborative divorce, which is also called the Collaborative law process, is an amalgamation of mediation and traditional divorce. In collaborative divorce, both parties hire a collaborative divorce lawyer to represent them in court. A collaborative attorney works best to obtain favorable outcomes for the client.

Both collaborative attorneys representing their clients sign a legal contract called ‘participation agreement’. Under the contract, the attorneys are bound to use legal techniques to resolve disputes among parties instead of using combating strategies to resolve divorce issues.

In addition to that, collaborative law includes multiple meetings scheduled between the spouses, their collaborative attorneys, along with other officials needed (depending on the disagreement which needs mediation) such as child specialists, financial advisor(s), property manager, health and insurance officials, etc.

In cases, if both collaborative attorneys could not reach a successful agreement using the collaborative law, then both attorneys will be disqualified to further represent parties. However, both parties (spouses) will continue fighting their divorce, but they need to start the process all over again with the newly appointed collaborative attorneys. 

When this happens, spouses often reflect that they are putting so much money to resolve their arguments in hiring family law collaborative attorneys. But, going through a legal process for having a divorce and getting favorable outcomes cannot be done without an experienced family law attorney.

Before you opt to have your divorce legally, you may need to consider every option that may hold you to further continue the process. Besides, financial matters should be considered in the first place.

How much does divorce mediation cost?

The divorce mediation cost depends on the circumstances of every case. However, divorce mediation costs thousands of dollars which is less than court divorce fees. Other factors that determine the mediation cost include:

  • Some mediators charge a set-up fee at the beginning of the case
  • Certain payments are required before your mediator schedules a session. Hence, the cost of divorce mediation also depends on the number of sessions required before you reach a solution.
  • The experience and qualification of a private mediator may cost you extra. A mediator will charge the same amount as any other attorney of the same qualification and experience will charge. If your mediator is also a licensed attorney, then he may charge more.
  • If the divorce mediation service is provided by a community–based agency, then probably they may charge you less. They often serve people without any charge if the parties are eligible.

Other costs associated with divorce mediation

 Once you finalize the mediator and the cost for his services, a mediator will also charge you for additional paper and court work that is associated with the divorce process. The work includes but is not limited to:

  • Document creation
  • Mediation management
  • Filing requests for mediation
  • If any party(ies) cancel the session
  • Keeping session details in writing

How long after mediation is divorce final?

Every divorce situation is different. Many couples have young children, some carry out business together, and some are bound with collective assets. However, every situation for divorce can make the process harder. Moreover, couples have contrasting and conflicting relationships that elongate the process and give them a hard time agreeing on a certain agreement.

Each changing or mishandled situation can delay the process and then only you can determine how much time the divorce mediation could take. In case you prefer going to court for your divorce, it will take 12-18 months to finalize your divorce. On the other hand, choosing a mediator for your divorce process can conclude your divorce process in 3 months.

Advantages of Divorce Mediation

Saves your time and money: If your divorce mediation ends up successfully, this will sidestep your formal divorce process that can take longer than a year to have a divorce decree. Mediation helps minimize the caseload on the system and shortens the process for spouses.

Mediation is fair for both parties: A mediator is involved in your divorce as a third party who doesn’t have any concerns about the outcome. They are there because they can see the solutions that you may overlook due to your conflict or objectivity as they are not emotionally attached to the parties.

Conversations remain confidential: After your mediation process, the notes of your agreements and conversations are thrown away. There’s no official court reporter that sits along with the process to record every word you say. Therefore, you don’t need to worry if your confidential exchanges came under discussion.

Disadvantages of divorce mediation

It is not a legal proceeding: Your spouse can take advantage of not showing any evidence of property, financial assets, or income as you go blindly in mediation without any official document or proof. Although, if you hire a financial analyst, you can provide the documents to prove that your spouse is misleading.

Pro se litigants probably take the advantage: People fighting for divorce without an attorney are called pro se litigants in family court. If they are fighting against a spouse with an attorney, they lag due to less knowledge about the divorce laws and end up on unequal divorce settlements.

What happens after divorce mediation?

Mediation can be done in both official and non-official forms. Hiring a mediator will help you reach a point where you and your spouse can negotiate and try resolving the conflict without proceeding to the intricate divorce process. What happens after mediation is based on the result of mediation, whether it ends up in a successful agreement or it fails.

However, mediation is a quicker process than a traditional divorce trial. If you want to resolve your conflicts, you need to agree to the terms of divorce laws. You have to compromise on child custody, property division, and spousal support along with other divorce terms. Otherwise, to obtain a divorce decree, you have to face a court trial. If you work out with the mediator, you have to take the document that you have agreed upon with your spouse in front of the judge to sign it. This would be your only contact with the court when you decide to go for divorce mediation.

If your mediation documents are approved by the family court, the judge will conclude your divorce and place a judgment. This judgment from the family court will officially dissolve your relationship and will bring the terms and agreements of your divorce into action. After the judgment, the court will process your paperwork that your mediation has worked and you both are divorced according to the court of law.

What happens when the court rejects your agreement?

With a successful mediation, there’s no need to appear in court again. But if you and your spouse do not agree on the mediation and the terms of divorce law or in case the judge denies signing the document that you have agreed upon, you have to proceed to trial.

In a divorce trial, a judge and attorneys of both parties are involved. You and your spouse will be provided with an equal chance to state your case and provide the relevant evidence to support your conflict (if needed). After hearing all the matters, the judge will finalize the judgment and set a divorce decree including matters like property division, child custody, and divorce.

In case, you want to convince the court to rule in your favor for sensitive issues like child custody, you may need to prove the fault in/of your spouse. For instance, if adultery or disloyalty is a factor, showing evidence against your spouse may persuade the court to award alimony along with your divorce settlements. On the other hand, if the evidence falls short or you fail to prove the fault, the court will conclude the case according to the legislated divorce laws in your state.

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