Divorce mediation offers numerous benefits

There's no secret about it - divorce is difficult. It also can be costly. Many people think of the divorce process as being full of conflict and hostility. However, it doesn't have to be that way. Increasingly, divorcing couples are choosing mediation as a way to avoid some of the conflict and expense of adversarial divorce litigation.

The divorce mediation process

Mediation involves a neutral, third party moderator who has experience in divorce litigation, who helps both parties come to an agreement on issues including child care, spousal support and property division. The mediator helps the parties communicate clearly with each other and reach a mutual understanding of the issues involved.

A mediator does not tell the parties what to do or determine who is right or wrong. Instead, a mediator helps the parties develop their own creative solutions to working out the complicated issues involved in a divorce. The goal of divorce mediation is to assist the parties in reaching a legal and equitable settlement agreement.

Divorce mediation normally starts with a "general caucus," where the mediator explains the rules of the mediation and how the process works. The mediator then gives both parties a chance to bring up any current issues or discuss what they hope to accomplish with the mediation.

If conflicts arise during the mediation or emotions run high, the mediator meets privately and separately with one or both parties. This provides each party with an opportunity to speak freely about their perceptions of the mediation.

The parties are not required to come to a settlement during mediation. If a settlement agreement is not reached, litigation remains an option.

Everything said during divorce mediation is strictly confidential, unless all parties agree otherwise. After a settlement agreement is reached, no record of the mediation is kept. The only written document resulting from the mediation is the final settlement agreement.

Advantages of divorce mediation

Divorce mediation is often quicker and much less expensive than litigating the divorce in a courtroom. It is common for parties who choose mediation over litigation to experience less post-divorce conflict.

Mediation also minimizes much of the pressure and anxiety typically present in a litigated divorce. Since divorce involves negative emotions, a mediator helps the parties stay on track and encourages productive conversation.

Additionally, because mediation involves the parties creating their own agreement, the process is often easier on the couple's children. Further, future conflict between parents is less likely because everyone helped create the agreement.

Parties may worry that choosing mediation over traditional litigation will result in a less than favorable settlement agreement. However, the state laws for property and asset division during mediation are the same as litigation. It is permissible to bring in experts to assist with valuing assets to ensure items are divided equitably. There is no need to worry that an agreement will be unfair simply because it was not hashed out in court. In fact, because the parties have direct, hands on involvement in arriving at a settlement, the parties usually feel that the resulting divorce agreement is fair and equitable.

Individuals considering mediation can benefit from enlisting the help of an experienced divorce mediation lawyer. The lawyer can provide valuable guidance through each step of the mediation process to help ensure that the process has the best possible outcome.