Divorce mediation is a process. Mediation offers the ability for you and your current spouse to decide the outcome of your divorce and what is best for the both of you and most importantly, your children. In this manner, you maintain control over your destiny and your rights and duties after you are divorced. Otherwise, a judge or jury will tell you how it’s going to be. As you might guess, this could be dangerous. Judges and juries are not perfect and make mistakes all the time. It’s simply a best guess as to what should be done after hearing from the parties.
In mediation, you and your spouse (with or without attorneys) meet with a neutral third person, called the mediator. With a mediator’s help, you work through the issues you need to resolve so the two of you can end your marriage as amicably and cost effective as possible. The issues covered include but are not limited to the following:
a. Distribution of Property (Assets/Liabilities)
b. Child Custody and Visitation Scheduling
c. Child Support/Health Insurance/Spousal Maintenance
It's safe to assume that many divorcing couples will have feelings of confusion, overwhelm and resentment when they at first approach mediation. While in some cases the feelings are more amicable, approaching divorce can be stressful, especially when there has been aggravating circumstances in the divorce that make it difficult for the couple to sit down across from one another. This is where the mediator comes in; they are a neutral third party who doesn't know either spouse personally. This absence of the couple's history as individuals aids in the decision making process and it helps the mediator work out practical agreements between the two parties.
Mediation is an informal process and it is confidential. It gives you and your spouse a chance to settle the circumstances and work together as parents. This is extremely important for children. Parents must still interact even after divorce, potentially for years to come. Mediation is intended to bring about relaxed communication between the parties. This makes it easier to discuss issues in pertaining to their property and children. Lack of communication may have been one of the main reasons for their divorce in the first place. Mediation is a great opportunity, if only for the sake of the children, and to make their post-divorce relationship better than their married one.
A divorce mediator is neutral and doesn't "work" for either party. That means the mediator cannot give legal advice to either party. They must remain neutral no matter what the situation. This allows the process to work fairly.
What a mediator can do is to devise or even dream up ideas that can lead to an agreement. It is the open and free exchange of information that allows both spouses to negotiate with each other in confidence. It’s so much better than taking the witness stand and explaining everything to a judge or jury. It is also much less expensive. Because both spouses are working with the same base of information, it usually takes far less time to negotiate a resolution.
Mediation is voluntary. It continues only for so long as all the parties are moving in the right direction. If the parties absolutely cannot make progress, the mediator may call an impasse and the process is terminated. However, it’s the couple’s mediation and they decide everything in the process.
The length of mediation depends on what issues have been agreed to prior to mediation and those issues that need to be addressed during mediation. Also, the amount of time spent in mediation is contingent upon you and your spouse's willingness to come to agreements regarding your property and your willingness to do what is in the best interests of your children. The time spent in mediation can be reduced if you and your spouse are able to come to some agreement prior to mediation or at least have some general idea on what should happen.
On average, divorce mediation will last 4 hours. If complex, the mediation can last all day. Again, how long it takes really depends on the divorcing couple’s state of mind and their level of animosity for each other. If one of the spouses is unwilling to budge from their position on a divorce issue, mediation may not be an option and they may have to litigate in court. Once this happens, communication is shut down and the fight begins. The future then becomes unpredictable.
The average mediated case cost about $400 per party for 4 hours. In turn, the average litigated case in the courts cost $5,000 to $50,000 and may take up to 12 or 18 months to get to trial. Keep in mind, litigated cases actually cause more spite and frustration between divorcing couples. The money they spend on litigation can pay for a child’s college education! Trial outcomes are not very predictable. Therefore, not many people walk away from a litigated divorce feeling satisfied. On the other hand, couples who went through mediation generally feel satisfied because both walked away feeling that they had gotten some or most of what they had wanted. Who would you rather have to decide what happens with your children and your property? Wouldn’t it be better for the couple to decide during mediation? Who knows more about you and your children? Why would you want to let people who know nothing about you, tell you how things are going to be?
Another consideration; divorce in the court system is public. Anybody can sit in the courtroom and hear the specifics of your divorce. On the other hand, mediation is confidential, private and conducted behind closed doors. Mediation is about working together and making decisions that are in your best interests and the best interests of your children.