Divorce mediation can be an effective way to resolve conflicts and end a marriage amicably. However, unlike a judge, a mediator will only serve as a facilitator and will not make any decisions for you. That means you, and your spouse will control the process, which is typically less expensive and more confidential than a court trial. If both parties are open and cooperative, most mediations end with each side feeling satisfied.
How Does Mediation Work?
There will be a series of half-day or full-day mediation sessions with an experienced mediator, that you and your spouse will attend. Each party can choose to have an attorney present, as the mediator will not offer any legal advice and will not testify in court.
During each session, the issues that each party wants resolved will be discussed. For instance, there are often conflicts surrounding:
Spousal Support / Maintenance
Co-parenting and Visitation
Property and Debt Division
Bringing any financial documents and any other relevant data related to the issues will be beneficial. Once a compromise is reached on all matters, the mediator will draft an agreement to be reviewed and signed by each party. If the mediator is also an attorney, they can then help you file the documents with the court. Once the court approves the mediation agreement, it becomes an order and is enforceable.
How Long Does Mediation Take?
Unfortunately, there is no set length of time. It will depend upon the complexity of your situation, as well as how flexible each party is when negotiating. Some couples can complete mediation in as little as a single session. However, on average, at least three or four two-hour sessions will be required. If there are extensive financial issues and third party professionals, such as financial advisors or accountants become involved, then the process can take longer.
Should I See a Lawyer During Mediation?
It is highly encouraged to hire a lawyer during mediation, for legal advice and to ensure you are comfortable with the agreed upon terms. A mediation lawyer can play a positive role in negotiations, educating you so that you can settle issues from a strong position. They will help by coaching, supporting, and strategizing with you throughout the entire process. A legal advocate can also offer protection from any unfair tactics used by your spouse’s attorney; and he or she will review and revise the final divorce forms before they are signed.
What if We Can’t Agree on Everything?
If you and your spouse are able to make progress on one or a few substantial issues to the divorce during mediation, it can help immensely. Should you choose to take your divorce to court to finalize the separation, any issue resolved through mediation is one less that must be handled through litigation. Saving you time, money, and extra stress. Alternatively, some couples benefit from simply taking a break from mediation and then returning to it several months later when heads have cleared.