You’ve been working for months to resolve your issues with your spouse but you still can’t seem to see eye to eye on anything. You can’t imagine this might be the end of your marriage, but you have no other option but to file for divorce. It can be a hard time. But if you aren’t constantly warring and are still able to have face to face conversations with your spouse without starting World War III then you might want to consider a different approach to divorce: mediation.
The mediation process allows for negotiation, during which everyone involved works toward an outcome that feels fair to both parties. This shared and agreed to outcome has become a popular option in the U.S. over the years, and has helped to settle 50-80% of divorce cases. Working through a divorce with a mediator allows couples to be less defensive and more informed about both sides. Mediators help to aid the process by offering advice and other alternate solutions that a couple may not have considered. Also, the process of mediation tends to take half the amount of time a divorce that needs to go to court does. On average couples spend at least 50% of the cost of an average divorce because of that decrease in amount of time. This happen because you will not need to pay the legal fees of going to court and working with a judge as is usually needed for a traditional court proceeding.
Working Towards an Agreement
For a mediation process to work, both parties need to be focused on coming to an agreement. If the parties cannot agree to that, chances are it won’t work. A couple will then need to pursue a traditional court process. But mediation presents a positive environment for couples that want to avoid the combative and litigious process that often comes with going to family law court.
Preparing for Your Mediation
You and your spouse have decided that you want to avoid as much conflict as possible. You’ve both agreed to act like mature adults when it comes to ending your marriage with mediation. You have a mediation date set. Now you need to know what else to expect as you enter your mediation session.
Before your first mediation session, make a list of all the assets you have. This list should include all financial information you have about: bank accounts, mutual funds, retirement funds, real estate, vehicles, time shares, businesses, and stock. You’ll also need to prepare a list your debts including monthly credit payment, mortgage and home equity payments, private loans, and car loans. Make sure you have all the information, or at least as much as possible. Ensure the information is organized and in a form that will allow the mediator to be able to clearly review it during the session.
Leave Your Emotions at the Door
Mediation is meant to be a negotiation process, not one in which you start crying or screaming at your soon to be ex. Getting emotional will not allow you the clear head you need for the mediation process. This is not the time to “get back” at your ex-spouse. This is the time to negotiate, and not argue, so you can come to a final agreement. Remember the end goal and what you are trying to accomplish. You also need to be realistic. Chances are you will not walk away having received everything you wanted. Being able to look forward and remember that will help you stay out of the nit-picky weeds of settling a divorce agreement. Still, be forthright about what you want.
You, your spouse, and your mediator team will put together a series of scheduled sessions, during which you will all meet as a large group. The first session will be for disclosing all the “hard facts” about the marriage: joint and individual finances (bank accounts, debts, investments, retirement accounts and pensions) and assets (real estate, cars, other vehicles). Depending on how much you are able to get through in that meeting, you will also discuss the “soft” facts. This is the crucial portions of a marriage: family background and history; fears and concerns; issues regarding children, and other non-financial matters.
Once all the “facts” are on the table, the mediator or mediators help the parties identify a range of possible solutions. These solutions will take everything into consideration a well as what each party (and any children involved) will need to survive after the divorce.
The next step is the “solutions phase.” During this time, the spouses speak directly to each other about various options that have been presented and discuss whether or not those options do or do not meet their concerns. During this time, if it seems the couple is able to communicate without getting emotional or upset, the mediator keeps quiet. But if a couple gets stumped,, or if emotions and tempers flare, the mediator can choose to step in to keep them on task or provide a suggestion the couple might not have thought of. The couple is encouraged to do most of the leg-work in figuring out how to solve the problems. A mediator’s goal and role is to help identify options, keep discussions on track, minimize unproductive or hostile discussion, and to create and maintain a forward-moving momentum.
During the process the people that have the facts and are best equipped to make decisions – the people in the marriage – have control.
Reaching an Agreement
During the course of the mediation, or when the mediation is completed, a detailed written divorce agreement is drafted. This written agreement, when finalized and signed, is what you have been working towards during the divorce process. A judge will review this agreement in court. . You will need to appear at the final divorce hearing so the judge can review the written agreement. In all successfully mediated cases, the court hearing is an “uncontested hearing” during which a couple presents its agreement to the judge and asks the judge to accept it. After that the divorce is final. It then becomes “the law” between the parties after the divorce. It is now legal and binding, just as it would be if the parties had reached an agreement through the standard process of hiring separate attorneys to represent each of them.
You will need to adhere to the provisions laid out in the divorce agreement regarding child custody and visitation, child support, marital property division, and alimony.
Mediation Just for Friends?
Mediation is also not a process that only works for couples that are “still friends.” A lot of couples that go through the mediation process do not get along, but are able to because of the help of a neutral third-party mediator. This form of communication does however help open up lines of communications while allowing for misunderstandings to get cleared up. Both spouses are encouraged to move forward toward a solution. Still, it’s important for couples to remember that the solution is the goal, rather than opening up old arguments. While you might run into arguments during the session (that’s totally normal) you should not go into the session with plans of reviewing and “solving” old arguments. That is not the purpose of the mediation process. You are there to work towards one goal: a divorce agreement that you both agree to.
When Mediation Doesn’t Work
Often times mediation will not be the answer to your divorce. Chances are that if a couple was not able to get along during the marriage, there are reasons that mediation will not work. If you have met with a mediator and your spouse and are still not able to come to a decision regarding aspects of your marriage, chances are you will need to go the route of a formal divorce process. Do not consider that a failure! Divorce is difficult for everyone, regardless of the process.
A Family Law Attorney
There are a number of things that need to be considered during a divorce. You and your spouse will need to come to an agreement that settles every aspect of your marriage. Child support, spousal support, marital property division can all be agreed to through the process of mediation. Working with a skilled mediation attorney can help ensure you get a fair case. For advice on divorce, child custody determinations, setting up a co-parenting agreement, dividing marital property, and spousal support you need the expert law firm of Divorce Law LA. Schedule a consultation today.
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