Divorce is a complicated process, both legally and emotionally. Ending a marriage, dividing a household, and preparing to parent children in two separate homes takes a great deal of preparation, planning, and legal decision-making. Ideally, spouses agree to part ways amicably—or at least without contention. When this occurs, they may resolve their conflicts outside of a courtroom with a divorce settlement agreement laying out a fair plan. Divorce settlement agreements specify terms for the division of marital assets, a schedule for sharing parenting time, and child support payments according to the state’s formula. Forming an agreement without an argument in court saves both spouses money, time, and contention which can cause further negative emotions toward each other.
If divorcing spouses cannot agree on one or more terms of their divorce agreement but hope to avoid a contentious court battle, mediation is often the solution.
What is Mediation During Divorce?
During divorce mediation, a neutral and experienced third party helps divorcing spouses resolve their disputes by offering solutions and options they might not have considered previously. A professional mediator doesn’t side with one spouse over the other on any issue but remains a neutral mediator who helps both spouses to communicate and compromise so they can reach mutually agreeable decisions.
Mediators first help both spouses to overcome obstacles and rancor toward each other to open up communication and compromise. Then, they act as a knowledgeable guide through the process of negotiating the terms of the division of their marital property like real estate property, bank accounts, investment accounts, and retirement accounts. Mediators present fair solutions but don’t make decisions for the spouses. When spouses come to a standstill in the process, a skilled divorce mediator can take them in a new direction and often restart the process so it moves forward toward a resolution. Mediators often help each spouse see the issue from the other spouse’s point of view by guiding the conversation to resolve issues without the emotionally fraught arguments that could otherwise occur without the presence and intervention of the mediator.
The decisions made during mediation are not enforceable until a judge reviews the terms and signs off on them. Mediators are deeply familiar with the state’s requirements for child support, asset division, and other divorce terms, so judges rarely disagree with the terms of the agreement, but simply sign off on them unless they request clarification or—rarely—find something egregiously unfair.
The Advantages of Mediation
A mediator helps spouses to calmly explore their options for resolving disputes without the need for expensive and antagonistic court battles. When spouses reach agreements on all aspects of their divorce through mediation, they don’t need a divorce hearing at all, saving court costs and attorney fees. Mediation also saves time. Often spouses resolve their issues in one or two sessions rather than waiting for a court date and spending days arguing and presenting evidence and testimony in court.
Another advantage of mediation is that both spouses know what is on their divorce agreement when it’s presented to the court for review rather than having to argue in court, wait for a judge to review the case, and then ultimately hear a judge’s decisions on important matters affecting the rest of their lives.
While judges try to be fair and impartial, there is always an element of gambling when spouses leave crucial decisions in the hands of the court, No one knows a divorcing couple’s family circumstances as well as they do.
While mediation doesn’t repair the marriage or heal the relationship, divorcing spouses who can reach agreements outside of court are better prepared to communicate and compromise on co-parenting matters with less bitterness as they go forward into their new lives.