If you're getting a divorce, you may want to consider mediation to help you resolve the distribution of property, support and parenting issues. Mediation has many advantages, including the low cost, flexibility and confidentiality, among others. Yet you may wonder if mediation can be an effective way to resolve issues that are real sticking points -- the issues that keep you from filing your divorce as uncontested.
Don't I need a judge to decide the contested aspects of my divorce?
There is no requirement to have a judge make a ruling on your contested issues. Mediation can be a very effective problem-solving process, and it's quite possible it can help you resolve your sticking points.
Mediation is not a good option for everyone. For it to work, there can't be a large power differential between the parties, and there needs to be a basic level of trust. It's often difficult for mediation to work when there are allegations of domestic violence or child abuse.
Those situations aside, the process of mediation can often help people resolve sticky issues for a number of reasons. One is that you have a great deal more flexibility in outcome when you use mediation instead of going to court.
In divorce trials, judges have a limited range of outcomes available, and one party often "wins" each issue. That can be extremely unpalatable for the "losing" party. Not only is that a negative experience, but it can also lead to lower compliance with the divorce decree.
Mediation can allow you and your divorcing spouse to negotiate your own resolution to all of the issues of your divorce, including:
- Who, if anyone, will continue to live in the family home
- Division of your assets and debts
- Whether alimony is appropriate, along with how much and for how long
- Any lawful and appropriate deviations from the Child Support Guidelines
- Child custody and sharing parenting time
- How you will renegotiate if circumstances change
- How you will resolve any problems that crop up later
If you and your divorcing spouse are able to negotiate in good faith and discuss your problems maturely, mediation gives you the tools to develop your own divorce agreement that works for everyone involved. Then, it just needs to be approved by a judge to be turned into a divorce decree.
What if I try mediation and can't resolve every issue?
Mediation is confidential, and whatever you reveal during the process cannot be used against you later in court. In other words, if you're unable to resolve every issue during mediation, you can still go to court to resolve the issues without feeling you've lost any advantage.