What Is Divorce Mediation?
Divorce mediation is a process that allows divorcing couples to meet with a specially-trained, neutral third-party to discuss and resolve common divorce-related issues. Mediation is typically less stressful and less expensive than a divorce trial, and it usually proceeds much faster. Because you and your spouse have the final say over your divorce matters, mediation also allows couples to maintain the power and control in their divorce, as opposed to asking a judge to decide.
Mediation gives you and your spouse the opportunity to build your communication skills, even in situations where a lack of communication was the cause for the relationship’s demise. With the help of a trained professional, even the most communication-challenged couples can succeed in mediation.
Will Divorce Mediation Work for Me?
For some couples, working with your spouse and a mediator might be just what you need to obtain a divorce with as little conflict as possible. But, mediation will only work if you and your spouse are on the same page. You are more likely to have a successful mediation if all or most of the following statements are true.
You and Your Spouse Agree to Divorce
Despite what we see on television—or what we often hear from friends or family—not all divorces are contentious. In some cases, the decision to divorce is mutual. If you and your spouse agree that the marriage is over, you can file a petition for divorce together or, one spouse can file with the other’s knowledge. When you’re both on the same page, it’s often easier to negotiate and work together to find a resolution for any unresolved divorce issues in mediation.
There’s No History of Domestic Violence
With divorce mediation comes the need for frequent meetings involving both spouses, the mediator, and possibly attorneys. If you and your spouse have a history of domestic abuse, most mediators won’t take your case because it’s difficult to keep both spouses on track, and it’s challenging for the mediator to determine if the victim agrees to the settlement because of fear or intimidation from the abuser. In states that require mediation, if you can demonstrate a history of physical violence, the court will excuse you from the mandatory sessions.
Both Spouses Are Forthcoming About Finances
One of the most complicated parts of any divorce is the finances. Both spouses must be willing to provide the other (and the mediator) with sensitive information, including documentation relating to bank accounts, retirement, pensions, stocks, and all other assets and debts. In most marriages, it’s common for one spouse to be more familiar with the family assets and liabilities than the other. If you don’t have all the relevant financial information, you’ll need to investigate and understand your marital estate before you agree to a proposed property settlement.
You Agree on Custody Terms
Next to finances, child custody and visitation can be the most challenging aspect of divorce. Most parents can set aside their differences for the children’s sake, but sometimes even the best intentions are met with complications.
Divorce mediation is an excellent way to work with your co-parent to decide who should care for the children on a day-to-day basis, who should be responsible for paying child support, and the type and frequency of visitation with the non-custodial parent.
There’s no question that parents know what’s best for their children, and the most effective way to ensure that your judgment of divorce protects your children’s best interest is to negotiate the terms for custody with your spouse. If you discuss custody and reach a roadblock, your mediator may be able to offer advice or suggestions on how to resolve the issues without asking the court for help.
If you and your spouse disagree on custody, especially if there are allegations of abuse or neglect, you’ll need court intervention. The court will try to determine what arrangement is in your child’s best interests by using your state’s custody process before the judge makes a final decision.