What if you could keep your divorce out of the courtroom, save time and money, and obtain a more satisfying result? You can, through divorce mediation.
Mediation is a voluntary process in which you and your spouse meet with a mediator who assists you in reaching an agreement. The mediator is not a judge; he or she does not decide your divorce for you. The mediator simply facilitates discussions and negotiations in an effort to help you settle your divorce. Although the mediator is often an attorney, he or she does not represent either spouse and cannot give legal advice.
Each mediation session is approximately two to four hours in length. The number of sessions required will depend on the complexity of the issues and the willingness of the spouses to work together. At the first session, the mediator helps outline the issues to be resolved and determine what information needs to be gathered. Subsequent sessions generally focus on developing and analyzing potential solutions.
Since the mediator cannot give legal advice, spouses often find it useful to consult with an attorney during the mediation process. Attorneys usually do not attend the mediation sessions.
One significant advantage of mediation is the cost savings. A mediated divorce generally costs thousands of dollars less than a traditional litigated divorce. Instead of each spouse paying the hourly fee for his or her own attorney, each can just pay half of the mediator's hourly fee. Even with the cost for the consulting attorneys, the overall cost of a mediated divorce is significantly lower.
Divorce mediation has other advantages as well. First, a mediated divorce is often settled within a few weeks or months, as opposed to a litigated divorce which often takes a year or longer. Second, mediation is confidential so spouses avoid airing family issues in open court. Third, spouses who mediate have the mind set that they are working together instead of being at war. As a result, the divorce is usually much easier on the children. Finally, studies show that spouses tend to be more satisfied with a process in which they remain in control, as opposed to handing control over to the judge.
Since most family law attorneys either act as mediators or can refer you to one, they are an excellent source of information and can help you determine if the mediation process is appropriate in your case.
By Deborah A. Perkins, Norman Dowler, LLP