Divorce mediations are facilitated by certified, licensed mediators. Most states require that mediators also be licensed attorneys, which ensures that the agreements reached at the end of a session are in compliance with the law. In the interest of neutrality, spouses generally split the mediation fees.
Benefits of Divorce Mediation
- Mediation is less costly than litigating contested issues. Because there is no litigation, couples avoid paying attorneys’ fees related to trial preparation and discovery.
- Divorce mediation is non-adversarial and encourages couples to communicate openly about their financial and emotional needs. This makes the process less stressful for all parties and ensures that the final agreement is both legally appropriate and practical.
- Mediation speeds up the divorce process. Couples will not have to wait for court hearing dates or rulings from a judge when they settle their disputes out of court.
- Divorce mediation is easier on minor children. A neutral mediator can carefully assess the child’s needs and each parent’s strengths, crafting an agreement that best meets the children’s (and parents’) physical and emotional needs.
- Even though divorce mediation is outside of the formal legal system, neither party is barred from retaining an attorney to help them reach an agreement. During mediation, neither party should feel as though they are being treated unfairly.
When to Avoid Out-of-Court Agreements
Although most court systems prefer that couples use mediation prior to bringing a divorce case to trial, several circumstances do not lend themselves to an equitable mediation session.
In situations where a spouse committed abuse against the spouse or child, the unhealthy dynamic present in the relationship may prevent the couple from being able to negotiate a fair agreement outside of court. During divorce mediation, neither party should feel pressured or intimidated.
Mediation may also be inappropriate if one or both spouses have emotional problems related to the divorce. Successful divorce mediation relies on both parties being able to assess their needs objectively; depression, anxiety, and severe emotional distress can inhibit this.
Considerations Before Hiring a Mediator
Couples should keep in mind that they will still need to go to court to finalize their divorce even if they resolve all property, financial, and child custody issues in mediation. Although the court may ask for a copy of the divorce mediation agreement, the court will still need both spouses to fill out financial affidavits to enter orders for child support, alimony, and distribution of retirement account funds.
Although couples who attend mediation may not be able to resolve all of their issues out of court, divorcing parties should assess the benefits of out-of-court negotiations before pursuing litigation. Even in contested and inimical divorces, many spouses find that they are able to save time, and stress, by retaining a third-party divorce mediator.