What to Expect from Divorce Mediation

couple in a divorce mediation session

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Divorce mediation is a popular method of negotiating a divorce settlement with a spouse. In mediation, you and your spouse hire a third party mediator to help you resolve issues in your settlement. Unlike divorce court, mediation can be done without lawyers, and without a judge to dictate terms for you. For many, mediation seems an easier, more comfortable alternative to divorce court.

If you are looking in to divorce mediation as a possible path toward separation, you may have many questions. After all, this is uncharted territory.

Here are some things that you can expect in divorce mediation.

What is a divorce mediator?

A divorce mediator is a neutral third party who assists couples in resolving the issues related to their divorce or separation. The mediator helps facilitate communication and negotiation between the divorcing spouses to reach mutually acceptable agreements on various aspects of their separation, such as property division, child custody, visitation schedules, and spousal support.

Unlike a judge who makes decisions on behalf of the couple, a divorce mediator does not have decision-making authority. Instead, their role is to guide the discussions, promote understanding, and help the couple find common ground. The mediator assists the couple in identifying their interests, exploring options, and generating possible solutions to the issues at hand.

Divorce mediation is generally considered an alternative dispute resolution method, aiming to promote cooperation and minimize conflict between the divorcing parties. It can be a less adversarial and more cost-effective approach compared to going to court. Mediation can also be beneficial for preserving a more amicable relationship between the couple, especially when they have children and will need to co-parent after the divorce.

How long does divorce mediation take?

 Generally, the process is split into multiple meetings. You should expect to spend between six and ten hours total in mediation, split between three to five separate meetings. That being said, every situation is unique. Some couples require more or less time in mediation, depending on individual needs. Some couples prefer to space out the mediation over shorter meeting sessions, while others seek to meet for longer sessions. The timing and scheduling of your mediation is flexible.

What to expect during your first session

During our first meeting, we’ll familiarize you more thoroughly with the mediation process and answer any further questions you may have. 

Together, we will confirm your commitment to mediation and have you sign a mediation contract. We will walk you through this contract to ensure you understand it thoroughly before making any binding commitment.

After this is complete, we’ll ask you to provide us with any additional background information we need for the mediation process. Once you agree to divorce mediation and we have this information, we can begin the process.

What to expect in subsequent sessions

Once the formalities of your first session are complete, we will begin negotiating terms for your separation.

When negotiations begin, the mediator may suggest that you deal with simpler issues first. Answering the easier questions builds trust and encourages compromise when it comes to the more difficult issues.

It is important that you remember you will be dealing directly with your spouse, and that compromise will be necessary for both of you to come to an agreement that works.

Once your negotiations are finished and you have found a solution, either the mediator or one of your attorneys will write an agreement and, in many cases, a parenting schedule or parenting plan. These documents will be incorporated with the rest of your divorce paperwork and become part of your divorce judgment, which means that a court could enforce them if one of you doesn’t do what the agreements say you’ll do.

The benefits of divorce mediation

 Anyone going through a divorce should consider mediation, which can work for almost all couples and has a long list of benefits.

  •         Most mediations end in a settlement of all the issues in your divorce.
  •         Mediation is less expensive than hearings or court trials
  •         All mediation sessions are confidential, meaning there will be no public record of your sessions
  •         While many separating couples choose to only hire a mediator, you are still able to have a lawyer provide you with legal advice
  •         Your mediator will get to know you and your spouse, and will help you find fair and reasonable resolutions based on your individual needs.
  •         You will not be required to make a case for a judge or jury.
  •         You and your spouse will control the process rather than a court or judge.
  •         The mediation process can improve communication between you and your spouse, helping you avoid future conflicts.

Though there are many benefits to divorce mediation, the process may not be for everyone. In cases of domestic abuse, it is often safer to proceed in divorce court with lawyers involved.

Similarly, it is easy for a reluctant or uncooperative spouse to stall mediation and prolong the process.

If you are worried about being able to work productively with your spouse, you can always seek the advice of a family lawyer before beginning mediation.

Finding a Divorce Mediator

Finding a right fit for you and your spouse will make all the difference in your mediation. You should only work with a mediator who has experience in divorce cases and ideally one who is an experienced family law attorney.

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