When a divorce goes to court, state law and a family judge ultimately make the important decisions about property division, child custody, visitation schedules and more. Unfortunately, the litigation process can involve enormous emotional and financial strain.
Worse, the final outcome may not be what either spouse would have chosen for themselves. For separating couples who can at least agree to try to negotiate rather than litigate their divorce, mediation offers an important alternative.
What does mediation involve?
During a mediated divorce, each spouse generally hires his or her own attorney. Both spouses and both attorneys agree to settle the separation outside of court during a series of meetings with a neutral, third-party mediator.
The role of the mediator is not to make a final decision, but to facilitate discussion between all parties. If spouses cannot resolve certain issues during mediation sessions, they may choose to continue negotiating outside of court through their attorneys, or, if necessary, pursue litigation.
What are the benefits of mediation?
When couples share feelings of bitter animosity, mediation may not be a realistic option. However, when spouses enter negotiations with a problem-solving approach, mediation offers many potential advantages, including:
- Fewer legal expenses
- Greater control over how to separate assets and provide care and support for children
- The ability to resolve issues in a private setting
- A flexible rather than rigid timeline for reaching a resolution
- The opportunity to foster communication and preserve relationships with children
Some couples attempt to pursue mediation without the involvement of an attorney. However, even when spouses have a relatively good relationship, the legal aspects of divorce can be complex, especially for couples with considerable assets or complicated custody concerns.
An experienced family law attorney can help to identify solutions while ensuring that potential settlement offers are both fair and realistic.