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How to Separate From Your Spouse with Divorce Mediation

During a divorce mediation, two parties sit down with a neutral mediator to come to a resolution. Married couples must decide how to split assets and determine custody and support of their children, if any, which can be contentious topics. Working with a trained mediator allows lines of communication to be kept open while the neutral third party guides the conversation. The mediator doesn’t work for either side; he or she does not give advice or advocate for either party. Instead, the mediator’s goal is to facilitate communication and help the parties come to a resolution. They help with the process, keeping the lines of communication open, encouraging problem solving, and reality testing the couple, all while promoting a civil and empathetic conversation.

Mediation can be used for any legal dispute but is particularly helpful in divorce cases. If parties attend a pre-suit mediation, it allows a couple to move forward at their own pace rather than be held to a court timetable. This could make the process timely and efficient. Mediation is completely private. Unlike a court case where anyone can enter the courtroom and listen to the details of your life, mediation is kept completely private and involves only you, the person you’re divorcing (or other parent), and the mediator. All communication is kept private until the agreement is made.

The process is convenient because the mediator meets on your time schedule. You and your soon to be ex-spouse can meet as often as you like until you come up with an agreement for your divorce. Lastly, the agreement itself is the biggest advantage of hiring a mediator for your divorce. Oftentimes, divorce mediation results in both sides feeling more satisfied with the agreement, and both sides are more likely to stick to the agreement they negotiated themselves, as opposed to a ruling issued by a judge.

Find A Mediator

You’ve done the research and decided that divorce mediation is the best choice for dissolving your marriage. How do you get started?

The first step is to find a mediator. Just as with any other service, you don’t want just anybody, you want the person who will do the best job in your particular situation. The attorney you hire will most likely have a recommendation for a mediator he/she selects as best suited for your situation.

Some questions are similar to what you would ask with other services. How long have they been practicing divorce and family mediation? What training do they have in this profession? How much experience do they have with cases like yours? What do they do to stay current in their field?

Other questions are specific to the industry. Is this their full-time profession? Not everyone practices mediation as a full-time profession; they might be a social worker, attorney, or have a different job entirely. This means that they likely don’t have as much experience since they are juggling another job. What is their case resolution rate? A mediator should be able to tell you their resolution rate, and it should be over 90%. A good mediator is able to consistently guide their clients towards a resolution. What is the mediator’s personal approach and style of mediating? Do they have a proven method to keeping proceedings efficient and moving forward? Do they have financial savvy? Most of the questions surrounding divorce – division of assets and liabilities, alimony, child support – have to do with money.

Based on the answers to the questions above, you and your attorney should be able to find a mediator that fits your needs.

Introductory Stage

You’ve picked a mediator; now it’s time for the introductory stage. This is when you, or your attorney on your behalf, will lay the groundwork for the process. In a private and comfortable setting, both sides share with the mediator background information regarding the situation. At this point, the mediator will be able to get a feel for the issues in your particular case and the level of communication you and your spouse practice.

The mediator will explain how the process works and what is expected of the two participants. Divorce mediation only works if both sides are willing to cooperate and come to an agreement without litigation. After meeting you and discussing your situation, the mediator will suggest an approach for moving forward.

The introductory stage is a chance for the mediator to find out which issues you and your partner agree upon and which you disagree upon. This will help set an agenda for how the mediation should proceed.

Preparing For Mediation

Neither you nor your spouse want to rush into an agreement without the relevant information. Having all of the facts will help you both come to a complete resolution on all issues. That’s why it is important for a couple to prepare for mediation beforehand.

You cannot negotiate the division of assets without knowing what the assets are, to begin with. If any information is missing or in dispute, the mediator may offer suggestions on how to obtain missing information. Most couples exchange all tax information, mortgage statements, bank statements, insurance information, and other relevant documents regarding their assets and liabilities, and income prior to mediation. Your attorney will usually meet with you prior to mediation to help you review the assets, liabilities and income, and discuss the different options for a resolution.

Framing Stage

Now that we’ve laid the foundation, the framing stage builds the framework for the divorce mediation. At this point, the mediator will discuss with each spouse their needs and interests in the dispute. This can include identifying each side’s goals, values, priorities, concerns, and anything that will help the mediator get to the ultimate goal of resolution.

Ultimately, divorce mediation is about coming to an agreement that successfully satisfies each person’s core interests. While it’s not always possible to find a solution that completely meets both parties’ interests, by building a framework it is easier to come to a resolution that at least partially addresses the parties’ goals.

Negotiating Stage

Now it’s time to start negotiating. The mediator will begin by laying out possible options. With guidance from the neutral mediator, each side with the help of his/her attorney can weigh the options and narrow them down. The mediator helps steer the conversation and place the focus on problem-solving, rather than the idea of winning and losing.

The goal of divorce mediation is to come to an agreement that both parties deem acceptable and can commit to. The couple will discuss options that don’t work for both sides until they come to a final agreement. Reaching that end result will inevitably require concessions and compromises from both sides. The mediator helps the couple stay on track and keeps the focus on satisfying each person’s main objectives as much as possible.

Concluding Stage

Once both spouses have reached a complete resolution, this agreement usually is put to paper and given to both sides to review and eventually sign. They can then review privately with their lawyers and accountants, if any. Sometimes the couple does not sign the agreement at the end of the mediation. Instead, a party may want a day or so to reflect upon the terms prior to executing the final document. Depending on the issues of your particular case, the mediator can prepare a memorandum summarizing the main points of the agreement that will be used for writing the formal settlement agreement by an attorney for one of the parties.

A final written settlement agreement that is signed by the couple will be filed with the court as part of your now-uncontested divorce case!

When two people decide to dissolve a marriage, there can be a lot of questions about assets, taxes, retirement, custody of children, and child support. Rarely are couples splitting up able to decide upon all the issues on their own. Many people think their only option is to go before a judge in court. However, there is another option. Divorce mediation is a quick, affordable, private, and convenient process that can resolve the legal dissolution of your marriage without litigation.

Ready to discuss how you can proceed with your divorce without fighting in front of a judge or a lengthy trial process? Contact us to get started.

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