If you're dreading the courtroom proceedings of divorce, you're not alone--many people wish there was an alternative to traditional litigated divorce. And in fact, there is. Mediation provides a different forum for divorce negotiations, involving a third-party mediator who helps forge agreement outside the courtroom. There are many benefits to this approach, but whether it's the right one for you depends on several factors.
What Is Mediation?
Mediation is a process for divorcing couples that relies on a neutral third party instead of a judge. The mediator's role is to listen to each spouse and work towards an agreement on the divorce terms. Sometimes a couple will decide to meet with a mediator alone, but often they'll decide to have their attorneys present, since the mediator cannot offer legal advice. Mediation can cover the entire range of issues involved in a divorce, including:
- Child custody
- Child support
- Asset division
Mediation has several benefits over a litigated courtroom divorce.
- It's cheaper than litigated divorce.
- It's easier on your children.
- It takes less time, since it doesn't depend on caseloads in the courtroom.
- Compliance with settlement terms is more likely.
- Terms are tailored to the couple.
- It preserves a working relationship between the couple, which will have benefits in later dealings.
- Confidentiality--all proceedings are completely private.
Mediation is often successful, even in cases that involve significant conflict between spouses, such as mistrust caused by infidelity. If both parties are willing to work, mediation can be an option. However, some factors can make mediation untenable. These include:
- An extreme power imbalance between spouses
- One spouse truly doesn't care about the other's welfare
- A history of emotional or physical abuse
- Unwillingness to participate in good faith
- A fundamental lack of trust between spouses
If one or more of the factors above are present, you should consult an experienced attorney to determine whether to pursue mediation. It could still be a possibility, but a seasoned advocate will be able to help you determine that.
No one wants to go through the pain of a divorce, even the spouse who chooses to end the marriage. The questions involved are complex, murky and sometimes embarrassing. However, for couples that maintain a baseline of trust and respect for one another, mediation can help avoid the worst experiences of courtroom divorce.