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Divorce Mediation


mediating a divorce
Divorce mediation is a process where separated couples negotiate a settlement agreement with the aid of a mediator. Mediators can be an attorney but they are not required to be.

A mediator is a neutral third party who assists in the negotiations; however, they do not make the decisions for you. Just as every situation is different, every mediator has a different approach to mediation. It is the mediator's responsibility to structure the sessions so that the couple can successfully negotiate a divorce agreement. A good mediator will encourage you to put the past behind you and focus on the facts at the present moment.

The Phases of Mediation

Initially, the couple will meet with the mediator and discuss the background information and the facts of their particular situation. At this meeting, the approach that will be used during the mediation will be determined. This approach is usually determined by the communication between the couple and the issues that need to be resolved.

Next is the information gathering stage. The couple will provide the mediator with information pertinent to their situation such as real estate owned, retirement fund, debts, and inventory of jointly owned assets including bank accounts, investment accounts, automobiles etc. Often during the information gathering stage the sessions are held separately. If the couple can't agree, it is the responsibility of the mediator to help them come up with the options available to resolve the disagreements.

The third phase of the process is determining the issues that need to be resolved. These could include division of property, division of debts, child custody and visitation, child support, alimony, and any other issues pertinent to their particular situation.

Once all the issues have been put on the table the couple will move to the next phase- negotiation. Now the mediator helps the couple explore the options that are available for settlement. During negotiations the couple would usually come up with various scenarios of settlement options. Once the scenarios that are totally unacceptable are eliminated the couple will be better able to see the options that are workable. Often in this phase it may become apparent to the couple the areas where possible trade-off can be made to balance out the settlement. For example, if the car is important to one person and the vacation home is important to the other it may be possible with a little give and take to agree on the issues.

When all the issues have been agreed upon, a preliminary settlement is drawn up. At this time if the participants have decided to seek the opinion of a legal professional they would have the document reviewed. Any revisions that are needed are made. Once the agreement is completed both parties sign it. Remember that every state has different laws. If the court must approve your settlement it must be submitted for review. Upon approval it then becomes a legally binding agreement

A few things to remember about mediation:

  • Mediation is a private process, not open to the public as a court case is. However, be aware that what is disclosed in mediation may not necessarily be confidential. In some places it may be used in court if your case goes through the legal system. Check you individual state laws.
  • If there is an imbalance of power between the couple that needs to be disclosed in the early stages of mediation. The mediator will help come up with strategies to level the playing field.
  • It is important to hire an attorney to consult with during the process. Be sure to choose an attorney that is open to and aware of the process of mediation, otherwise the process may become adversarial.

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