A litigated divorce can be expensive. Each spouse bears the cost of hiring a lawyer and paying for depositions and the discovery process. The attorneys may consult with accountants, auditors, child-care authorities, physicians, and other professionals—and each one of them will need to be compensated (and paid even more, later on, if they are called as expert witnesses at a trial). When all is said and done, all the expenses may significantly deplete the family’s assets.
There’s a cheaper way. For some couples who are planning to divorce, it’s often a much better way.
How divorce mediation works
Divorce mediation uses a neutral third party to supervise negotiations between husband and wife over essential marital issues. The goal: to develop a written agreement, signed by both parties, which will be submitted to the court as part of the divorce. The judge will then implement the mutual divorce settlement as part of his final orders.
Even a partial agreement represents significant progress. Sometimes the spouses cannot find a mutually satisfying compromise on all issues. When that happens, any issues that haven’t been settled by divorce mediation will go before the judge for his decision.
What issues can be settled by divorce mediation?
The important fact to remember is this: mediation can settle any issue that the court can. Your divorce mediator will be responsible for keeping the discussion on track, and he will ask you and your spouse to consider each topic in an orderly way. If you reach an impasse on one item, the discussion will move on to something else, but the mediator will return to that issue later on.
The divorce issues you can expect to examine will include:
- Division of marital property. The couple will be asked to provide lists of property and debts acquired during the marriage, and sign a legally binding affidavit about their values. Then they will be guided to split that property however they choose. Although courts in some states are required to divide marital property equitably, a couple using mediated divorce can choose their own method for dividing possessions from the marriage. This may not lead to a mathematically equal division if one spouse wants to keep a cherished item.
- Alimony. In some cases, the huge gap in earning potential between spouses may justify one partner giving the other money every month after the divorce, until the dependent spouse can upgrade her education or job skills. With a mediated divorce, the spouses can themselves determine the amount and duration of spousal support, if any.
- Child custody. If the couple has children together, mediation can help resolve questions of legal custody, primary physical custody, and parenting time or visitation rights. Child custody mediation can assign legal custody separately or jointly to both parents, which will give each a role in determining the education, religious training, and medical care for each child.
- Child support. Both parents have a legal and moral duty to provide financially for their children, and mediation won’t change that. But mediation does allow you to set the scale of that support obligation. Your mediator will calculate the expected financial contribution based on the income of each parent, but you will be allowed to vary from that if you can provide good reasons.
Are you ready for the divorce mediation process?
Divorce mediation represents a decision by both spouses to make the process of ending the marriage as stress-free as possible. It’s a more responsible—a more adult—alternative to throwing a shrieking tantrum in divorce court. Even better, you get to make the key decisions for your post-divorce life, instead of watching as a judge determines how your marriage ends.
This doesn’t mean that your divorce will be jolly. But in our experience, a mediated divorce is often the least painful option for couples who are splitting up.
Divorce Done Right provides mediation services and support directly to clients nationwide. To schedule a consultation about your case, call us today at (866) 337-4448 toll-free or fill in our online contact form.