What is divorce mediation? During mediation, you and your partner meet with a neutral third party to discuss the issues involved in ending a marriage or de facto relationship. Negotiations can include arrangements involving children, finances, or both children and finances. Divorce mediations are not legally binding, but a mediation agreement can be presented to the court to serve as the basis for a legal divorce decree.
Couples reach agreements more quickly through mediation which saves time, court costs, and attorney’s fees. Successful mediations generally create better relationships between the divorcing couple and better outcomes for the couple and their children than a divorce that passes through the court system, and that is better for the couple and their children.
What Is Divorce Mediation?
The easiest way to answer the question is to compare divorce mediation to a divorce that goes through the courts.
Divorcing Through the Court System
A divorce that passes through the court system generally involves attorneys, which practically ensures an adversarial relationship between the couple. Someone loses, and someone wins. The courts set the schedule for divorce hearings, and even though you have a scheduled court date, you still may wait for hours until the judge calls your case. Consequently, you can add lost wages to court costs and attorney fees when considering the cost of a divorce conducted through the courts.
Legal fees for family court cases can cost $20,000 or more per person. In addition, it can take up to 15 months to settle a divorce. Finally, the judge will decide the arrangements regarding the home, the children, and finances.
Divorcing With Mediation
In mediation, both partners choose a neutral mediator. The mediation promotes a casual, conversational atmosphere. It can take place with both partners in the mediator’s office. However, if one partner doesn’t feel able to speak freely, the mediator can conduct a “shuttle” negotiation. Partners can conduct the mediation from separate offices within the mediator’s office space, by phone, or online. Mediation appointments can be scheduled whenever both partners are available, eliminating lost wages.
Couples can schedule as many appointments as needed to work out their issues, whether those are simple or complicated. With the help of a mediator, couples can create solutions that fit their situation. 73.6 per cent of those who use family dispute resolution services report being satisfied with their agreement. Only 60 per cent report being satisfied after pursuing a divorce settlement through the courts
Preparing for a Successful Mediation
Before your appointment, you should think about what you want from your agreement. What arrangements do you want for your children? What financial arrangements do you feel are fair and reasonable? What do you think is a fair arrangement regarding your house and other material assets? If you have a complicated case, you may want to consult with financial experts, appraisers, and an attorney before starting your mediation.
Also, consider what else you want your agreement to cover. Remember, a mediation agreement does not have to be limited to legal issues, and it can be as creative as you and your partner want to make it. Put your ideas in writing and take them with you to your appointment so that you can present all of them for discussion.
Your mediator may understand family and divorce law, but only an attorney can offer legal advice. However, a neutral, family dispute resolution professional may have a background in social work or law. Your mediator is also likely to be trained in conflict de-escalation and can assist couples with improving their communication skills. Many couples become better at communication after a divorce than they were during their partnership. That benefits everyone.