Mediation is an alternative to court litigation for resolving issues between divorcing couples. Litigation is an adversarial process that often pits the parties against each other. The spouses have little control over the process and issues are resolved by the court, not the parties themselves.
Mediation is a cooperative process that addresses the individual needs and goals of each spouse. A mediator, who is a neutral third party, meets with the couple and assists them in coming to their own settlement agreement. The spouses maintain control over the outcome.
Benefits to Mediation
There are benefits to the couple and to their children by using the mediation process.
A neutral mediator assists the parties in making their own decisions. The neutral mediator, without taking sides, guides the parties so they can come up with their own solutions to the issues, including resolution of:
- Division of assets and liabilities
- Child custody
- Child visitation
- Child support
- Spousal support
Mediation is a non-adversarial process. The process is not an adversarial one and the focus is on solutions to how they will live in the future. The couple learns to communicate their individual needs, explores reasonable options and make informed decisions that will benefit the entire family.
Mediation saves time and is cost-efficient. The parties are able to control the time it takes to resolve their issues if they are prepared for meetings and are able to settle their issues. The fewer meetings there are the less the cost.
Reduces stress. Since the parties are working toward resolution and achieving their goals, there is less stress than litigation which is adversarial and increases arguments.
How Mediation Works
There are several steps to mediation:
- The couple meets with the neutral divorce mediator to discuss options and come to an agreement on the issues.
2. The agreement is put in writing. The parties will then be encouraged to seek the advice of a review attorney. There may be some additional changes to the terms they agreed upon after they speak to their attorneys. When the agreement is finalized it is signed, and dated by the parties.
3. The agreement is filed with the court.
4. There are additional divorce papers to file but the terms of the agreement become incorporated but not merged into the court’s final divorce judgment.
5. Both spouses are bound by the terms of their own agreement.
If the couple cannot reach an agreement, they can still proceed with traditional litigation. If they can agree on some issues, they can put that agreement in writing and proceed to present their unresolved issues to the court for resolution.
How Long Does Mediation Take?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question about how long mediation takes. Some couples know what they want, so it may only take two or three sessions. Others are unsure, and it could take months to complete the process.
Mediation can proceed faster than traditional litigation if the spouses gather all their financial information together. They should individually establish goals for their future concerning how and where they want to live, how they want to co-parent their children, and how they want assets to be divided.
When Mediation Is Not Recommended?
There are some situations where mediation is not recommended. For example:
- If there has been a history of domestic violence or child abuse.
- One spouse fails to fully disclose financial information and there is a suspicion that there may be some hidden assets.
- If there are complex financial issues which could be resolved in the Collaborative Divorce process.
For more information, contact us at Rosenthal & Markowitz to schedule a consultation.