It is an unfortunate truth: People facing divorce are often in their lowest life period and with that, find they are at their worst. It is often bad timing to be in such a state because divorce involves many angles of emotional turmoil and complexity, including child custody, support payments, restraining orders, and the division of assets and debts. During these times, you require guidance not only from your attorney and could benefit from a skilled mediator.
Divorce mediation can make the separation process smoother. Unlike the tension created by litigation, mediation helps parties come to mutual agreements. It is often reported as an empowering process where parties can express their opinions and feelings while the mediator helps them understand different perspectives. The divorce mediator remains a neutral party who facilitates discussion and helps come to an agreement. Having this assistance often encourages better problem solving that helps people get beyond the complex emotional dynamics.
General Divorce Mediation Considerations
Divorce mediation is informal. Parties may be represented by attorneys or come to the conclusion they need mediation on their own. In that latter case, normally a couple decides to mediate a divorce and will meet with a mediator together.
Depending on the depth and complexity of the issues, mediation can resolve disagreements in one meeting or require several. The length of time for a mediation session will also vary. People with no children and only a few disputes can solve their disagreements within a couple of hours. When there are many issues, there can be a one-day session followed by several smaller ones. Agreement is not guaranteed but in the least, divorce mediation can facilitate agreement on some issues so a court process is shorter and less stressful.
A mediator is an impartial third party who can assist the divorcing spouses in resolving their differences. It is important to note a mediator is not the same thing as an arbitrator. An arbitrator is a a private judge who conducts abbreviated litigation and issues a decision binding on both sides. A mediator, in contrast, can only advise the parties on how to settle their issues. The mediator has no authority to impose a solution or mandate any particular resolution.
Every mediator has his or her own style. But generally speaking, a mediator will gather information about the parties’ situation, attempt to frame questions for discussion, and then conduct negotiations between the parties. If mediation is successful, the parties may reach a preliminary agreement. At this point an attorney (who may also be the mediator) can be brought into turn the parties’ agreement into a binding legal contract that can be submitted to a judge for incorporation into a final divorce decree.
Of course, mediation is not always successful. If the parties are unable to resolve their disagreements amicably, litigation may still be necessary. And there are cases, such as those involving allegations of domestic abuse, where mediation is simply inappropriate.
But in most cases, mediation can help the parties achieve a quicker resolution than litigation. More importantly, mediation allows the parties to keep their divorce relatively private, as a full-blown court battle may become a matter of public record. Especially if there are children involved, mediation provides couples with a more dignified and confidential way to end their marriage with minimal fuss.
How Divorce Mediation Works
To prepare for divorce mediation, you need to disclose all debts and assets. If spousal support is an issue, also come prepared with information about your income and expenses. You need to be ready for discussion rather than a hard view of your perception. If you have an idea of optimal child visitation plans or how you would like property divided, be ready to discuss those in further detail.
Mediation begins with a discussion with each party. This is often a private telephone conference with each party so the mediator can collect background on the situation and the main concerns. Sometimes, this discussion happens with each party at the mediation meeting itself. Issues discussed at mediation must remain confidential and nothing can be disclosed unless there is a court proceeding.
At the mediation, parties will either be in separate rooms or one room—again depending on the current dynamics. If the parties opt for separate rooms, the mediator will speak with each separately and act as an intermediary when communicating with the other party. This is often very effective in relationships where there is a lot of resentment and it takes skill to cut through to the issues. It allows the mediator to explain the issue to the other party without the connotations that accompany strong emotions.
If the parties share a room, there are ground rules about interrupting one another and allowing time to speak—and let the mediator facilitate the discussion as well. Sometimes, this proves ineffective and the mediator may require the parties to move to separate rooms in order to keep the process productive.
How To Make Mediation Work
You will need to be in the right mindset to make this process work. If you choose divorce mediation, you will need to be:
- Willing to compromise
- Ready to listen and understand other points of view
- Open about debts and assets
- Prepared for this to take as much time as it needs
Being able to understand another position does not mean that you agree with it. No one really comes out of a divorce with everything they want and that is likely to be the case with you as well. This is not a good time to stubbornly hold on to ideals unless they are essential to making a living or raising your children. Know where you can compromise as well as where you must stand firm.
It also bears mentioning that there are scenarios where mediation is not appropriate. Marriages that involved physical or mental abuse, substance addiction, criminal activity or sexual abuse are not good candidates for mediation. The unhealthy power dynamics involved in these situations make a mutually beneficial agreement impossible. If you do not feel comfortable pursuing mediation with your spouse, do not feel pressured to take that course of action. You must enter this process willingly and if you feel safer taking the litigation route, do it.
Steven L. Fritsch, Esq. has successfully mediated many divorces and custody disputes. He has the knowledge and experience to mediate your issues and assist in working towards resolution. If you want to participate in mediation rather than litigating your issues in court, contact the Law Offices of Steven L. Fritsch to set up you mediation.