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Before committing to mediation for your divorce, it is important to know exactly what is involved in the process. While each case is different, the following are the common steps to expect.
Before beginning a mediation session, the mediator will do an intake, explain what to expect, and discuss the terms of payment. Documentation must be gathered about your finances, insurance, and taxes so that everything is available to reference during the mediation sessions. This typically includes:
The mediator cannot provide individual legal advice or representation to either party.
The goal of these meetings is to negotiate the terms of your marital settlement and/or parenting agreement (legal documents that outline your decisions). Most couples have a good sense of where they are in agreement, so the mediator will typically begin by documenting these points and then areas of least contention. Lastly, the matters that are complex and/or where the couple is most divided will be addressed. The mediator can explain Washington law and offer ideas and options, but all final decisions are up to the spouses. Depending on the situation, you may want to engage an expert to advise you, such as a financial planner, tax accountant, or child therapist. Mediation sessions typically focus on:
In general, you may need to attend three to six two-hour meetings before reaching an agreement, depending on the complexity of the issues.
Once spouses have reached an agreement, the mediator will draft documents that outline the terms, including a marital settlement agreement and a parenting agreement, if applicable. There will be time to review the documents and make any necessary revisions.
This step is optional, but hiring your own Spokane mediation attorney to review the final legal agreements may be reassuring. Any recommended changes that both spouses agree upon can be made before finalizing.
The last step is to file your divorce paperwork with the court. Although your divorce will be considered uncontested, you will still have to wait the mandatory 90 days before a judge will review your agreement. However, you can start the paperwork before mediation so that by the time you are done with your session, the 90-day period may be complete or close to it. If the judge determines the agreement is fair and benefits both parties, they will sign the final divorce decree.
If you and your spouse cannot make progress on one or a few substantial issues to the divorce during mediation, you may need to go to court to finalize the separation. At least any issue resolved in mediation is one less matter that must be handled through litigation, which can save you extra stress, time, and money. Alternatively, some couples can resolve their disputes after taking a break from mediation and then returning to it after several months or once the parties have had enough time to calm down and re-examine.