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The end of a marriage does not always mean a fight in divorce court. Even if you and your ex cannot agree on all of the issues of your split, mediation may be possible—and, for many, it’s a better, more efficient option than divorce.
Divorce Mediation - How Does it Work
Understanding what divorce mediation is, how it works, and its potential benefits can help you decide if it may be a viable option for you. To help you with that decision, here are some helpful divorce mediation FAQs.

What Is Divorce Mediation?

Divorce mediation is a dispute resolution process that happens outside the courtroom. It involves a specially trained third party, the mediator, who does not “represent” either side in the divorce. Instead, the mediator serves as a neutral facilitator who establishes a safe, unbiased environment while helping divorcing parties:

  • Discuss the point(s) of dispute in their divorce case
  • Identify common ground and potential for compromise
  • Attempt to devise resolutions that are mutually beneficial
  • Work towards achieving fair, equitable divorce agreements

Both parties in the divorce can have a hand in selecting the mediator, and there is no requirement to file divorce papers before pursuing mediation.

How Does Divorce Mediation Work?

You and your ex can make the choice to pursue mediation, or the family court may order you both to participate in mediation before it will step into the case. While divorce mediation can focus on issues like the division of marital assets and/or support payments, it often also tackles the sensitive issues that arise in a custody battle. Here is a general outline of how the divorce mediation process in Colorado typically works.

Step 1: The Initial Meeting

In this preliminary meeting, which does not have to occur in person, you will get a chance to share the details of your case with the mediator. This is the opportunity for the mediator to get up to speed with the point(s) of dispute in the case and your objectives. It’s also your opportunity to learn about the ground rules, ask specific questions, and get more details about what to expect as you proceed with divorce mediation.
How Does Divorce Mediation Work - Fort Collins CO Divorce Lawyers
This preliminary mediation meeting can involve both you and your ex in the same room, or the mediator can meet separately with both of you. In the case of separate meetings, the other party in the divorce will have to reach out to the mediator to schedule an appointment; the mediator will not make contact, as mediation is generally a voluntary process (unless it has been specifically ordered by the court).

Step 2: The Mediation Sessions

You, your ex, and your mediator will schedule the first mediation session at a time that is convenient for all parties. During this session:

  • The mediator will typically go over the ground rules and/or any administrative issues as a kickoff to the session.
  • You and your ex may be in the same room or separate rooms.
  • Each side will get the chance to explain their argument(s) and desired outcome(s) for the conflict(s) in the divorce.
  • The mediator will zero in on specific issues in a particular conflict to identify common ground and the options for moving towards a resolution.
  • The mediator will ask open-ended questions to facilitate the discussion and help both sides try to come to an agreement, whenever possible.

For some parties, one mediation session may be all it takes to resolve the issues and come to an agreement. For others, it may take multiple sessions to work out the conflicts. If more than one session is needed, follow-up sessions will usually be scheduled a couple of weeks apart to give both sides time to reflect on the proceedings and what they want to do going forward.

Step 3: The Memorandum of Understanding

When mediation is successful in helping parties resolve any conflicts in their divorce, the agreed-upon resolution will need to be officially documented in writing in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). Generally, the mediator will help craft the MOU document, and both parties will get the opportunity to review it for precision and accuracy before signing it.

Step 4: The Final Meeting

Wrapping up divorce mediation, this final session will involve compiling the MOU and all other paperwork that will need to be filed with the court. At this time, the mediator can answer questions about what to expect going forward.

What If No Resolutions Are Achieved with Divorce Mediation?

As effective as mediation can be, it does not always result in resolutions for divorce cases. Sometimes, one or both parties may be unwilling to budge on certain issues. When it’s clear that compromise and resolutions through mediation are not possible, divorcing parties will need to go to court. At this point, a family court judge will intervene, hearing the arguments, reviewing the evidence, and making a final decision on the remaining point(s) of dispute.

Once those matters have been resolved, the divorce can be finalized via an official divorce decree.

What Are the Benefits of Divorce Mediation?

Divorce mediation can offer several benefits, including:

  • Faster resolutions: With the divorce cases going through the courts, couples will be at the mercy of the court’s overburdened schedule. This can mean having to wait weeks or months, sometimes, between hearings and various proceedings. It can also mean that the court dates you get are not the most convenient. With mediation, however, couples can create their own schedule and timelines. That often speeds up the process while offering flexibility that can be invaluable during a divorce case.
  • Privacy: Court cases and documents are usually part of the public record (unless specific requests are made and approved to seal those records). That can mean some of the most private and sensitive aspects of a couple’s life, from finances to allegations of misconduct, are available for public scrutiny. In contrast, mediation won’t put these details into the public record. With mediation, everything you and your ex discuss will remain private, and any resolutions you achieve will also stay private. This can provide priceless peace of mind, especially in high-net-worth divorce, cases that involve high-profile couples, and various other situations.
  • Divorce cost savings: The longer a divorce case is drawn out, the more it tends to cost. Although there may be some divorce costs you simply can’t get around, the costs associated with the duration of your case can be within your control if there’s any possibility of achieving resolutions through divorce mediation. And, when there is, you may be able to significantly reduce your divorce costs, preserving more financial resources for your life after divorce.
  • Better outcomes: Mediation lets you and your ex come together to create solutions that work for you. The goal of these proceedings is to achieve mutually beneficial— or win-win—solutions. And the sky can be the limit in terms of what compromises or creative options you and an ex come up with. Given that you and your ex know your family better than the family court, this can be a powerful way to create more ideal outcomes than a judge could devise.

Here, it’s also crucial to point out that divorcing parties do not need to be perfectly friendly with each other for mediation to be a viable option. As long as they are willing to listen, hear each other out, and try to work towards a solution, divorce mediation has the potential to offer several major benefits.

What Are the Risks of Divorce Mediation?

As effective and promising as divorce mediation can be, it’s not for everyone. In some circumstances, mediation may come with some significant risks. Knowing what those are upfront can help you maintain realistic expectations. It can also help you understand when divorce mediation may have hit a dead end and it’s time to go to court.

Some of the main risks associated with divorce mediation can include the following:

  • Inaccurate information: The discussions and compromises in mediation have to be based on full, accurate information regarding the conflict(s) between the parties. If either party cannot be trusted to be honest and forthright about the issues, mediation won’t work. Often, concerns about candor and truthfulness arise in the financial conflicts stemming from a divorce.
  • A party who won’t budge: The key to mediation can be compromising or the willingness to compromise. If one party is intent on sticking it to the other or if either party has an “all-or-nothing” mindset, refusing to compromise, it can be extremely challenging (or impossible) to find common ground and resolutions via divorce mediation.
  • No resolutions: There are no guarantees that mediation will bring conflicts in divorce to an end. Sometimes, only some resolutions can be achieved; in other cases, mediation may not end with any resolutions. In many cases, however, going through mediation can bring divorcing parties closer to common ground.

Given these and other risks of divorce mediation, it’s always best to consult an experienced Fort Collins divorce attorney to discuss your best options, in light of your situation, needs, and goals. Your lawyer can advise you on the best options while helping you pursue them going forward.

Who Should Not Pursue Divorce Mediation?

In general, divorce mediation tends to be a bad option when issues, like (but not limited to,) the following are involved:

  • Domestic violence: Both parties need to feel safe for mediation to work. If couples have a history of domestic violence, the informal setting of mediation is typically not the best option.
  • A significant power imbalance: Mediation should provide a neutral, level playing field for couples to hash out their conflicts. If one party in the divorce clearly has more power over the other, the court intervention, rather than mediation, will likely be the better option.
  • Mental health issues: Divorce mediation requires discussion, understanding, and the ability to clearly communicate your wants, needs, and boundaries. When mental health issues get in the way of that, it’s generally best for couples to pursue court options, instead of mediation.

How Long Does Divorce Mediation Take?

Every case is different, so there is no one answer to this question. In fact, divorce mediation can be wrapped up fairly quickly or be drawn out over months, depending on several factors, like (but not limited to):

  • The nature and number of conflicts: The more disputes a couple has—and the more complex those disputes are—the longer mediation can take.
  • The relationship between the divorcing parties: While more amiable relationships may lead to faster compromises, it’s important to remember that discussing the conflicts in divorce can be a game-changer. That can mean some amiable relationships sour; it can also result in a change of heart for combative couples, helping them get on the same page so they can achieve common goals.
  • Each party’s mindset and goals: How open is either side to compromise? How much or what is either side willing to give in exchange for achieving certain objectives? If either party is intent on getting everything (s)he wants and not giving in at all, divorce mediation can take multiple sessions, and there can be slim chances of a successful resolution.

Do You Need to Talk to a Fort Collins Lawyer About Divorce?

Yes. No matter how simple or amicable you think an upcoming divorce may be, things can go sideways as you dig into the issues of your case. If you talk to an attorney upfront, you can get essential advice and information that helps you avoid common mistakes, protect your rights, and take the right steps to try to achieve your objectives. A lawyer can also help you with all of the administrative work necessary to initiate, build, and advance your case while representing you in all proceedings going forward. That can be pivotal to achieving better outcomes from your Colorado divorce case.

To talk to an experienced, 5-star divorce lawyer in Fort Collins, CO, call (970) 488-1887 for a 100% confidential divorce consultation.

Our team is ready to listen and give you answers about:

Fort Collins Divorce & Child Support Attorneys

Tom Cossit, ESQ

Tom Cossitt, Esq.

Family Law
Suzanne Ewy, Esq.

Suzanne Ewy, Esq.

Family Law
Carla Jaquess, Esq.

Carla Jaquess, Esq.

Family Law
Attorney Lisa Vigil

Lisa Vigil, Esq.

Family Law
Jenna Hardesty, Paralegal

Jenna Hardesty, Paralegal

Family Law

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