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Frequently Asked Divorce Questions
by Barry Berkman of Berkman Bottger Newman & Schein, LLP


Are there situations when divorce mediation is not recommended?
Yes. Divorce mediation is not appropriate for all couples. For example, divorce mediation is not recommended in situations involving domestic violence. It is also not appropriate when one spouse overpowers the other or refuses to participate honestly. In addition, if one spouse refuses to divulge all financial information or fails to cooperate with the mediator's guidelines, mediation is not appropriate.

By choosing mediation, do I give up any rights that I or my children may be entitled to?
Divorce mediation is an alternative to adversarial proceedings or negotiations. All issues that would normally be addressed in adversarial proceedings or negotiations(child and spousal support, parenting arrangements, division of marital assets, tax implications) are discussed by the parties. Neither party should need to relinquish any of his or her entitlements, but instead of litigating issues, you and your spouse privately work through your differences with the goal of reaching an agreement that will best serve your present and future needs.

Can I withdraw from mediation if I am unhappy with the results?
Yes. Divorce mediation is a voluntary process. This means that both you and your spouse must be willing participants. If you or your spouse are not happy with the progress of the mediation, either one of you can withdraw at any time.

How does mediation address power imbalances between spouses?
Not all couples are suited for divorce mediation. For a mediation to be successful, both parties must make their voices heard. In situations where there are serious power imbalances between spouses, divorce mediation may not be appropriate. At the initial session as well as during the course of the mediation, the trained mediator together with the parties will assess the suitability of the couple for mediation. Also true is that the process itself can be an empowering one and that a spouse who at first may perceive himself or herself at a disadvantage actually develops or discovers strong bargaining skills.

How long does divorce mediation take?
Sessions usually last one to two hours. The number of sessions varies depending on the complexity of the issues and the needs of the parties. Successful mediations usually take from three to 10 sessions.

If we cannot communicate with each other, how will we be able to communicate through the divorce mediation process?
The divorce mediator is specifically trained to help couples with communication problems.

Is a separate attorney for each party necessary?
Yes. At the beginning of the mediation process, each party is advised to hire independent counsel to advise and consult with throughout the mediation process. The number of hours each party's attorney spends as a consultant is usually significantly less than would have been spent during adversarial negotiations or court proceedings. At the end of the mediation, if the parties have settled on the terms for a separation agreement, the attorney mediator drafts the agreement. Each party then has his or her attorney review the agreement.

What are the benefits of divorce mediation?
Through divorce mediation, you and your spouse privately work through your differences and make decisions about your present and future needs. Generally, this process facilitates communication, promotes cooperation, reduces tension, and makes the inevitable separation easier. Divorce mediation is also a cost-effective alternative to traditional divorce litigation.

What is the role of a trained mediator?
Throughout the mediation process, the mediator remains a neutral party. This means that the mediator is not acting as advocate, judge, or jury. Rather, the mediator's purpose is to assist the parties in identifying and clarifying the issues that must be resolved. He or she will help to develop a constructive dialogue that examines each issue with a focus on the parties' needs, interests, and priorities.

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