What Is Divorce Mediation?
Divorce mediation is a way of finding solutions to issues such as child custody and spousal support. It acts as an alternative to the formal process of litigation in divorce court.
During mediation, both parties and their attorneys meet with a court-appointed third-party. This third-party, the “mediator,” assists the couple in negotiating a resolution to their divorce. Parties have the opportunity to discuss the issues, clear up any disagreements, and come to a compromise that is feasible for both.
The mediator is an objective party. It is not his or her job to resolve problems or force an agreement on the parties. He or she helps the parties come to an agreement by acting as an intermediary. The mediator may offer an opinion or make suggestions, but at no time are they allowed to force an agreement upon the parties.
Advantages of Divorce Mediation
- You save time and money. If successful, mediation means sidestepping the formal process of divorce court. This shortens the process for the parties and helps minimize the caseload of the Family Court System.
- Mediation is fair to all concerned. The mediator is a third-party who has no interest in the outcome. He or she stands to gain nothing. Because of their objectivity, they may be able to see solutions that the parties can’t because they are not emotionally invested in the outcome.
- Mediation is a confidential process. There is no court reporter taking down every word said. Any notes taken by the mediator are thrown away afterwards. You don’t have to worry about your “dirty laundry” being aired in public. There is no public court process.
- The divorcing couple is in control and not at the mercy of a divorce court judge.
Disadvantages of Divorce Mediation
- Mediation isn't a legal proceeding, so you can't take advantage of pretrial discovery. You go in blind without the benefit of documents that prove income and assets. This may give an angry spouse the opportunity to hide assets and other financial information. Although, if you can afford to higher a financial analyst, you may be able to identify hidden assets before mediation begins.
- Mediation puts both parties on a level playing field, even if the situation was controlling or abusive. If one spouse bullied the other, mediation sets the weaker spouse up for failure when it comes to negotiating a fair divorce settlement. If one spouse was a serial cheater or abusive, these past behaviors won't be taken into consideration during mediation. Mediation is about what will happen in the future, not what happened in the past.
- Pro Se litigants are more likely to be taken advantage of. Those divorcing without an attorney, known as pro se litigants in court, are less likely to know their legal divorce rights, which may reflect in an unequal or disadvantageous settlement. If a spouse is overwhelmed by the divorce process, they are less likely to be able to focus on the issues and protect their future rights.
How to Prepare for Divorce Mediation
- Do your homework. Work with your attorney to make sure that all issues to be covered will have a fair and equal outcome for you. You will be mediating on child support, spousal support, retirement accounts, division of marital property, and debt. Be sure to have all your ducks in a row!
- Beware of your future needs after divorce. Do a post-divorce budget and go into mediation determined to negotiate for what you need to survive financially after divorce.
- If you have children, make them your main concern. Parents can't go into mediation with the hope of destroying the other if there are children involved. Keep in mind that children need two parents who walk away from divorce financially and emotionally whole.