In many divorce cases, mediation serves as an acceptable substitute for a courtroom trial. The process works well for uncontested divorces — and for those that can become uncontested with assistance from a skilled mediator.
Here’s what you need to know to help you determine if mediation might be a viable option for you.
Advantages of Working With a Mediator
Mediation can help couples resolve conflicts and reach agreement about the terms of their divorce. Mediation is not an adversarial process; it focuses on working together, with the guidance of an unbiased mediator, to solve problems and address the needs of each party.
In addition, mediation provides a number of advantages over going to court, including:
- You remain in control. Both members of the couple can select topics of discussion and define the terms of any settlement. Rather than having a court dictate the details, you keep control over the process.
- It’s less expensive. Mediation typically costs less than litigating, which can require attorneys to spend many hours drafting motions and appearing in court.
- Your opinions are heard and respected. Judges have little time to get to know participants personally, and cases often are rushed through. With a mediator, you have the opportunity to voice your opinions and work through any issues until you feel comfortable.
- The process is more flexible. If you go to court, you go when the court schedules your hearings. With mediation, you can schedule sessions at your convenience. In some cases, you can attend mediation meetings via online video chat or conference call.
- Your children are shielded from conflict. In custody trials, children typically must interact with various experts and sometimes must appear in court. A mediator, on the other hand, can keep the process more sensitive to children’s needs.
- You can resolve your case quickly. With mediation, you’re not forced to wait for an available court date. By scheduling your mediation sessions and achieving resolution quickly, you can move on with your life.
Confidentiality Is Key
If you go through a court trial for your divorce, the details likely will be part of the public record. In mediation, discussions and details brought up in sessions are kept private and confidential. Keeping personal and embarrassing information private protects you, and it protects your children now and in the future.
Why Mediation Works Well for Uncontested Divorces
A divorce is uncontested if both parties agree to end the marriage with no disputes over child custody, financial issues, division of assets, and other disagreements that often become contentious when couples split.
If you expect your divorce to be uncontested, mediation can prove highly beneficial in working out the details in a way that benefits you, your spouse and your children. Mediation provides a way to work together to resolve remaining questions without the drama of going to court.
Turning a Contested Divorce into an Uncontested One
Not all divorces are appropriate for settlement through mediation. Cases that involve allegations of domestic abuse or violence should not go to mediation, for instance, because the gap in power between the two parties may be too great. Mediation requires at least a minimum level of respect and trust between the spouses, and both parties must show maturity as they express their opinions and needs.
However, in many cases, mediation can help divorcing couples resolve their differences in ways that meet everyone’s needs — and allow spouses to have an uncontested divorce. If you have children, mediation may be an important step in learning to get along with your spouse so you can put the best interests of your children first.
A mediator with experience in dispute resolution can help you learn to compromise and make sound decisions, even when you disagree with your former partner.
What if the Parties Can’t Agree?
If you and your spouse are unable to reach agreement in mediation, you still have the option of going to court. Mediation does not force you to give up your rights to use litigation to resolve issues. However, you likely will pay more financially and emotionally if you do go to court. Because any information shared in mediation is confidential, you will begin litigation with a clean slate, as if the mediation sessions did not occur.
Mediation alone is not binding, so you’ll need to work with an experienced divorce attorney to properly execute the paperwork needed for your divorce decree.