Making decisions during a divorce can be overwhelming and stressful. Even if you and your soon-to-be-ex are splitting up amicably, there are still bound to be some disagreements about how property is divided up, how much each parent should pay toward their child’s expenses, and other matters that may come up. If you do not get along well with your ex, then that further complicates the decision-making process. The good news is that you do not necessarily have to resort to expensive private attorneys or throw up your hands in defeat. You and your spouse can go through the divorce mediation process to help both express your needs and wants and collaborate toward an agreement that will sit well with both of you.
Who Is a Divorce Mediator?
A divorce mediator is a third party who is not representing either you or your spouse. They are an impartial person who will listen to both of you (and your attorneys if you have them) and help you develop solutions to address all your concerns. Because the mediator has worked with many, many couples and because he or she is not emotionally or otherwise invested in your case, they will likely have ideas that neither of you has thought of.
What Happens During Divorce Mediation?
You will meet with your divorce mediator several times. The first time will usually be an introduction where you talk about your situation, and your mediator assesses how well-aligned (or not) the two of you are. They will explain the process and talk about how the two of you might end up working together to agree. There will likely be some things that you agree on. For example, you might decide that any family heirlooms that came into the marriage will be taken by the person whose family they came from.
Or one of you might want to take the family dog while the other partner does not want the dog. These are good to note because they will not be the focus of mediation. Instead, you will focus on the items you disagree on. The mediator will ask you to bring in financial records, insurance policies, and other documents necessary for both of you to have a full picture of the situation. He or she will also let you know what the laws are regarding:
You might work with the mediator as a couple or work with the mediator individually for some sessions. This depends on what is best for your situation. The mediator’s job is to help both of you achieve your goals, not favor one party over the other, so both of your interests are considered. Finally, you will go through working through each of the items on your list of things you disagree on. There will be some give and take, some compromise and some collaboration. In the end, the goal is to have every item decided upon.
Benefits of Divorce Mediation
The main benefit of divorce mediation is that both of you are more likely to get what you want if you can decide for yourself rather than leave it to a judge to decide. You will also save money on court fees and legal expenses. Another benefit is that this is a process that you and your spouse will be going through as a team.
Even if you aren’t getting along well, it can bring closure to the relationship and help end it on a good note if you can compromise and collaborate. If there are children involved, it is also reassuring for them to see that their parents are getting along well enough to make decisions regarding them. Compromising now is an excellent way to get used to the compromising you will continue to do as you co-parent your children.
Drawbacks of Divorce Mediation
There are some disadvantages to divorce mediation. If you do not have legal counsel, you might be taken advantage of by your spouse. Remember that your mediator is not on one side or the other, so if you are feeling pressured by your spouse to give him or her property that you wanted, the mediator will not be in the position to push back. He or she will take what you say at face value and will not generally point out if a compromise is unfair to one party or the other.
Also, if your spouse is hiding assets or money from you, there is no legal process stopping him or her from doing so when you are going through mediation. Nobody is under oath to tell the whole truth, and there are no perjury charges. Mediation requires a certain level of trust between both partners. If there is no baseline level of trust or a history of abuse of any type, mediation might not be the best option.
Is Mediation Right for You?
If you and your spouse have some level of trust, and neither of you is prone to bullying or coercing the other, then mediation very well might be the right option for you. If there are abuse issues or if one of you has hidden assets, those are reasons to consider getting legal counsel in addition to the mediation. Remember that when you have an attorney or a legal advocate, their job is to look out for your best interests, so they will be able to tell you when something is lopsided or unfair in your proposed agreement.
A legal advocacy group like National Family Solutions can help you look at all the options available to you so you can decide whether mediation is right for your case. Contact us to learn more about our services. You do not have to go through your divorce alone; we have legal advocates standing by, ready to help you with your case.