The goal of a divorce is to dissolve a marriage and while that goal may be simple the legal process of achieving the dissolution of the marriage is often complex. State laws vary concerning when a person can get a divorce. Many states have adopted no fault divorce statues that do not require a court to find that spousal misconduct, adultery or abuse occurred. Instead, the court may grant a divorce on grounds of irreconcilable differences or a finding that the marriage relationship is no longer viable.
While the parties may be assured that a divorce is possible they still must figure out the terms of that divorce. Most commonly that means decisions regarding alimony, child support, child custody and the division of property. If the parties are unable to come to an agreement about these decisions then the court will make the decisions for the couple. Many divorcing couples want to maintain as much control over these decisions as possible and, accordingly, enter mediation in order to come to an agreement to present to a judge.
What is Divorce Mediation?
Divorce mediation involves both parties meeting with a neutral mediator who helps the parties work through a divorce settlement. A mediator will gather information from both sides, analyze the information and help the parties reach fair settlements. The mediation process may occur in one session or multiple sessions. Each party may be represented by a family law attorney.
The Benefits of Divorce Mediation
A divorce mediation allows you to remain in control of the important decisions such as property division, alimony, child support and child custody that will fundamentally affect you and your children. A mediation agreement is not binding unless both parties agree to it. Unlike in court, if you do not agree with the outcome of the mediation then it is not binding. You still have the right to go to court.
It is important to note that most mediation agreements are not all or nothing agreements. For example, if you reach agreements regarding property division, alimony and child support but not child custody then most courts will accept your mediated divorce agreement in those areas and only decide the issue of child custody.
Divorce mediation is typically less expensive than going to court because it requires less attorney time. Parties, especially those with children who will have an ongoing need to communicate, may learn to negotiate with one another and begin building a post divorce working relationship that allows them to communicate effectively with regard to their children.
While divorce mediation is appropriate in most cases for the reasons described above, there may be situations when it is not appropriate. For example, if one spouse is intimidated by or fearful of the other then that spouse’s interests may best be protected in court. While mediation may work, it is important that a spouse who is fearful of the other be represented by independent counsel.
A divorce is often difficult. Mediation does not take away all of the difficulties but it does allow the spouses to communicate with each other and to walk away with a negotiated agreement of which each approved so that they can begin working on their future.
The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.