Divorce mediation is a collaborative process between spouses who want to end their marriage. Working through issues together (such as the division of property and marital assets, determining spousal and child support, crafting a parenting plan and visitation schedule for minor children), with the assistance of a knowledgeable, well-trained mediator working as a neutral third party when questions and disputes arise, the parties develop a written agreement to be used when finalizing their divorce in court.
Divorce mediation is a voluntary process that is designed to help parties resolve differences, find solutions, and come to mutually-agreed-upon terms to end a marriage in a non-adversarial and cooperative way, without the “combat” typically associated with a litigated (in-court) divorce. In a traditional, litigated divorce action, one party files a lawsuit to “sue” the other for divorce. Each party (usually) hires a lawyer to represent them in court, where a judge hears arguments and positions from both sides, examines facts and figures, and then applies the law, compares current and previous cases, uses set financial formulas, and follows other established guidelines set forth by legislators in the state capitol building to make important, final decisions that affect the lives of the parties and their children. In mediation, the parties make most, if not all, of those important decisions in ways that best fit their own, personal situation, goals, needs, and values. Divorcing couples often find mediation to be far less stressful, time-consuming, and emotionally charged than a traditional divorce, which can involve lawyers for each party, court-appointed lawyers for minor children, court schedules, delays, and substantial up-front and ongoing costs. Because the parties work directly with the mediator (with or without hiring their own lawyers, and with or without having them present), divorce mediation can be both speedier and far more cost effective for couples who want to end their marriage without going to war, and who seek a peaceful resolution as they transition out of their marriage.
We believe that divorce mediation can work, and work well, for most any couple. However, we are mindful that each case, each couple, and each person is unique. When the parties cannot agree about the color of the sky, much less who would like to keep which kitchen utensil, it may be that emotions are too high for mediation to be the optimal choice for one or both parties. If one party wants the other to be declared “at fault” for what caused a marriage to end, mediation will likely not work – your mediator serves as a neutral third party to help the parties reach agreement with one another, and does not make decisions or give opinions about “right and wrong.” When legal disputes arise over ownership rights to certain items of personal or real property and the parties need a judge to make a ruling about each individual’s rights, mediation is not the appropriate forum for those issues (although it can be for others within the same divorce proceeding). However, when the parties have the will and desire to work together, have ideas about how they want to separate assets, share time and activities with children, and move forward, but just need some guidance through differences of opinion and in arriving at workable solutions, a skilled mediator is an invaluable guide to help couples complete the process efficiently and with peace of mind.
Just as with any profession, no two mediators work in exactly the same way. In our practice, we typically invite a couple to participate in an initial telephone call to find out more about us, to ask questions, and to determine if we are a good fit to best serve the couple’s needs. We then invite the couple to come to our office for a preliminary meeting (first session) to meet their mediator, to discuss the mediation process itself, and to begin exploring the issues that the couples want to resolve. Depending on the nature and complexity of those issues, we will discuss the need for and schedule additional session(s). When the couple has worked through their matter and is satisfied that all of the outstanding issues and topics they want to address have been resolved between them, the mediator will prepare the necessary documents for the couple to review and sign at their concluding session. These documents may include an initial memorandum of understanding, a formal separation agreement, and/or a proposed judgment and order to be filed in Court in order for them to finalize the divorce.
We are firm believers that Divorce Mediation is a great option when a couple has decided to end their marriage, wants to do so in a more cost-effective, balanced way than the traditional litigation path allows, and who just need some guidance along the way to resolve outstanding issues, achieve peace of mind, part ways, and move forward amicably. Call us at 607-962-6162 if you would like to learn more. We are happy to help!
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