Divorce Mediation – How Does It Work?
By: Megan Mason
Divorce mediation is an affordable alternative to traditional court proceedings and often less costly than a lengthy litigation process through divorce court. Divorce mediation allows couples to resolve their personal marital dispute without going to court, but both parties still retain their own private attorney to advise them on the matter throughout the process. It is also less expensive, time-consuming, and less emotional stressful than a typical court divorce proceeding. In fact, studies show that mediation results in a better settlement for the average divorcee than either court ordered mediation or arbitration.
Divorce Mediation is facilitated by licensed divorce attorneys who facilitate communications between the parties and their representatives, other family and friends. Divorce Mediation can take place in an individual’s office, a state office building, or at any other location suitable for such a purpose. In order to facilitate a full understanding of how the entire process will work, the parties are encouraged to participate with a licensed divorce mediation counselor, who is trained in these issues and who can assist them in crafting a successful agreement. The sessions may be conducted one-on-one with the mediation counselor or at least between the attorneys. When more than two people are involved in a divorce mediation, the process tends to move faster, with each party able to speak openly and freely to the mediator.
At the start of the Divorce Mediation process, the attorneys of both parties are present. The parties then inform their respective attorneys of all relevant information and data. Once this initial information is filed, a meeting between the spouses and their representatives occurs. Generally, spouses will be instructed to discuss their concerns regarding the litigation and any other issues they feel might be important to resolving prior to the actual Divorce Mediation. It is at this time that issues are brought up that will be discussed during the actual Divorce Mediation.
The typical divorce mediator goes through a checklist as they review the applicable facts of the case. This initial list is then used to conduct what can be considered a “fact finding” phase of the mediation process. Based on the list, the Divorce Mediation Coaches will determine if it is in the best interest of the parties to continue the Divorce Mediation. If no consensus is reached, then another attorney, called the “Contractor”, is contacted and the parties proceed to the next phase of the process.
During the “fact finding” part of the mediation, many couples have different opinions on how the facts should be presented. On the Island, while the spouses may follow local procedures to obtain legal representation, many couples choose to work with a qualified divorce attorney who has experience with these matters and who has represented their particular interests in the past. As the Island is unique in its legal environment, it is typically recommended that a couple who chooses the Island to conduct their mediation seek a divorce attorney who has experience using the local procedures in their area.
Once the parties reach an agreement regarding the factual details of the case, the Mediation will determine if both parties wish to go to trial. If so, the trial process will occur either in the county where the parties reside or in a different county. The trial process is typically handled by a collaborative divorce mediation expert who works under the supervision of the Divorce Mediation Coach. Many of the couples who use the collaborative process when negotiating a divorce settlement, find it to be much more effective and cost effective than traditional divorce mediation. In addition, there is no right or wrong answers in the collaborative divorce process, which allows both sides to communicate freely and meet individually without the fear of being judged by a judge.
One of the biggest benefits of going through a collaborative divorce mediation process is the cost savings that occur. Lawyers are able to get much less involved in the process because all of the issues are brought to the table at once. This allows both sides to agree on terms, to answer questions about the agreements, and to offer opposing opinions to the same question(s). This allows the lawyers to bring their entire client list to the table, which generally saves the client thousands of dollars.
Divorce Mediation can be an extremely helpful process for couples who are having an ongoing conflict that is preventing them from communicating properly with one another. Divorce Mediation can occur in a court house or in a private office. Both are beneficial but the court room setting offers the best opportunity for a productive discussion between all parties. Divorce Mediation is a free initial consultation; however, each client may have different needs depending on their financial situation and other personal factors. When selecting an attorney, be sure to ask about whether mediation will be the preferred method of resolving the divorce matter.