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divorce and beginning the research process, you will come across many terms
describing methods of negotiating a divorce settlement. It is important for you
to acquaint yourself with these terms, and discuss them with an attorney, to
ultimately choose the divorce approach that is best suited to your
situation. Mediation is a term that you
will likely come across when researching divorce, and while not appropriate for
every divorce, it is a viable option for some couples.
The Basics of Mediation
mediation is “intervention between conflicting parties to
promote reconciliation, settlement, or compromise.” In mediation, a neutral third-party, called a
mediator, is hired to meet with a couple to hear, discuss and resolve the
issues of a divorce. Mediators do not
make decisions for a couple, but rather facilitate conversation and assist
couples in reaching agreements that are best for both parties. Using
mediation is voluntary, and all parties must consent to participate in good
faith and work together toward resolving issues. However, parties are not bound
to resolve their dispute.
mediation requires two parties who are willing to meet, negotiate and
compromise. This option should not be
avoided simply because there are disagreements between the parties that seem
too large to overcome. When everyone is committed to the process, mediation can
be very effective.
quite a few benefits over other options for negotiating a divorce
settlement. Many mediations end in a
settlement of all the issues in your divorce, and while you can still have a
lawyer to provide legal advice, ultimately you and your spouse make the
decisions rather than the depending on the court. Mediation is a more private
process with no public record of the content of the sessions.
Couples may also choose
mediation to help them come to agreement on a single divorce related issue or
document. Commonly, couples are assigned to a mediator by the court when having
difficulty finalizing their parenting agreement.
is a cooperative process between parties, and they are in control, it can serve
to improve overall communications. Additionally, avoiding trial or hearings is a
much less expensive option. Since parties work together to reach terms and,
therefore, are more comfortable with them up front, agreements reached in
mediation are followed much more consistently than other types of agreements or
orders. This fact may also help avoid
costly disagreements in the future.
The Mediation Process
Once you have
hired a mediator, there will usually be a phone call during which background
information will be collected about your situation. Following this, you will have your initial
mediation meeting where your spouse will be present. If you have an attorney
they may attend the meeting, but it is not necessary and will be less costly if
they do not. However, if your spouse
insists his or her attorney be present, you should consider doing the same.
The mediator will
explain what you can expect during the process and give you and your spouse an
opportunity to speak about your situations.
Many times the mediator will begin with discussion of areas where the
parties are in agreement, and then move on to negotiations. Upon completion of the negotiations, any
agreements can be put into writing and incorporated into your divorce
When parties are
prepared and willing to work together to negotiate a divorce settlement,
mediation is an effective, mutual and low-cost way to settle differences and
complete a divorce. In addition to his Family Law practice, Ronald L. Hendrix is a court-appointed
mediator holding a Master’s degree in guidance and counseling.