If you’re considering divorce, or if your spouse has already filed, your attorney will tell you that it’s best if you and your spouse can reach agreements on important issues like child custody and property division on your own.
But what if you can’t?
When a couple can’t agree on major issues, it’s up to the judge to decide – but that often leaves one or both parties feeling as if they’ve “lost.”
A better alternative for some couples is mediation.
But what is divorce mediation, and how does it work?
Divorce mediation is a process that involves a specially trained third party who helps divorcing couples reach fair, equitable agreements. It’s also a way to keep litigation to a minimum. You won’t have to fight in court, which gets expensive, if you resolve your issues with a mediator. Mediation also keeps all the important matters in your hands – not the judge’s. It also ensures that you and your ex both walk away reasonably satisfied with the outcome.
Even the most combative couples can get results by working with a mediator. Most people really just want to get through divorce as painlessly as possible, and mediation can be a great way to do that.
However, it’s not for everyone. Get your lawyer’s advice before you hire a mediator. Sometimes it’s not the best choice, such as when you’ve had domestic violence incidents between you or when one spouse is completely unwilling to negotiate.
If you and your spouse agree to mediation, you’ll set up an initial meeting with your mediator. The mediator will explain the ground rules. You may be in the same room with your spouse, or you may be in different rooms. Your mediator will cover administrative issues, like having you sign an agreement to mediate.
During that first meeting, you’ll each have the chance to explain what you’d like to achieve. You’ll also have an opportunity to talk about your desired outcomes when it comes to important issues, like custody, maintenance and property division. Your mediator will zero in on the conflict to identify what you’re having difficulty with, and he or she will discuss possible options you have.
A big part of divorce mediation is information-gathering. Your mediator will most likely ask each of you open-ended questions. That way, you each have the chance to explain your side of the story, including why you want what you want from your divorce.
You and your spouse will negotiate – with the mediator’s help – and once you reach an agreement, the mediator will put it in writing. Sometimes the mediator will offer to speak privately with each spouse, which can be really helpful when one spouse doesn’t want to talk in front of the other or when both spouses are angry. The mediator’s goal is to provide a safe environment for each party so he or she can find common ground.
If you can’t agree on major issues through mediation, you’ll most likely have to ask the judge to make decisions for you. And while judges do their best to remain fair and impartial, you’re the two people who know your family best. Sometimes when a judge makes a decision, one or both parties feels that it’s unfair. That causes unnecessary stress… which is another reason to try your best to negotiate in mediation.
When you’re contemplating divorce – even if you’re not sure you’re ready to file – it may be a good idea to talk to an attorney and learn about your options. Call us at 970-488-1887 for a free divorce consultation with an experienced, caring and knowledgeable attorney right now. We can answer your questions about: