When you think of divorce, you may immediately imagine two spouses spilling personal secrets and fighting in court. However, many divorcing couples choose to take a much more amicable route by participating in divorce mediation. Many people are not familiar with the mediation process or have misconceptions. The following are some important mediation basics, and to discuss how mediation may work in your specific case, consult with an experienced California divorce attorney.
What is Mediation?
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution that parties use to try to avoid litigation. Mediation is used in many types of civil legal actions, including divorce. In most situations, mediation is less expensive, less time-consuming, and overall less stressful than traditional litigation.
Instead of a judge, a mediator oversees the process. This is a trained third party who is neutral when it comes to the interests of the parties. The mediator works to get the parties to reach an agreement that works for everyone involved. If an agreement is reached, it can become a legally binding contract, and there is no need to go to court.
Overview of the Divorce Mediation Process
Once you and your spouse agree to mediation, the mediator will want to know the background about your situation. The mediator will speak with you and your spouse about your marriage, your children, your property, and what issues you cannot agree on. They gather information to get an idea of the bigger picture and what problems need to be resolved before your divorce can be finalized.
Meetings with the mediator will usually take place in an office or conference room – a much less informal (and often, comfortable) setting than any courtroom. The mediator should explain what to expect – sometimes, a mediator may hold meetings separately with each spouse, they may hold meetings with everyone together in the same room, or it may be a mix.
A mediator will take all the information at hand and work to facilitate cooperative discussion. They will encourage productive conversation to help both spouses discuss situations that may work for everyone. In this manner, they often get spouses to agree on contentious issues and reach a resolution that works for both spouses and any children involved.
Some spouses may hesitate to open up and provide their soon-to-be-ex-spouse with all of their information and positions. It is important to know that in most situations, everything that is said in mediation sessions is confidential, to which you agree at the beginning of the process. This means that if mediation is unsuccessful, your spouse cannot use everything you said against you in litigation.
The Mediation Agreement
Through mediation, many spouses decide to listen to one another and be open to compromise. Through this process, you may be able to reach a solution for any unresolved issues. Such solutions will be memorialized in the mediation agreement. This agreement can be incorporated into your divorce judgment, and it will be legally binding, which means you have rights if your ex-spouse fails to comply with the agreement.
The Lawyer’s Role
Often, spouses do not begin the divorce process thinking about mediation, but they instead each hire their own attorneys. Even if you have legal representation, you still may decide to try mediation if negotiations are not working. In fact, many divorce lawyers will recommend it.
In many situations, it is beneficial for spouses to attend mediation sessions alone with the mediator, as it makes the situation seem less contentious. However, you should always refer back to your attorney for advice about possible agreements. If you feel like you will have a difficult time standing up for your position and values in a session, it may be a good idea to ask your lawyer to attend with you. Also, if your spouse insists on having their lawyer present during mediation, you should also have representation to ensure an even playing field. In short, even if you are trying mediation, you should always have the advice and counsel of an experienced divorce lawyer.
Is Mediation Right for You?
Many people may think that mediation is for spouses who are immediately willing to agree. This is not necessarily the case, however. If you agree on all issues, there would be no need for mediation. If you and your spouse disagree on property division, custody, and/or any other issue, this is when you should consider mediation. You would be surprised how often a mediator can facilitate compromise and help you avoid going to court. Mediation may especially be right for parents who cannot currently agree but who want to maintain a civil relationship for co-parenting.
If you have questions about the mediations process or whether it’s right for you, do not hesitate to call a California divorce law firm today.