Mediation is a non-adversarial tool for resolving issues in a divorce case. It involves using a neutral third party, the mediator, who will facilitate communication between the divorcing spouses until they arrive at solutions that are mutually acceptable. Its goal is to come up with a genuinely consensual Marital Settlement Agreement that both parties can willingly abide by once approved by the courts.
Compared with litigation, mediation is the less costly alternative when it comes to both time and money. While a litigated divorce can take years on the average to complete, a mediated settlement can sometimes be done in six months. Since dollar rates are typically paid by the hour for both, mediation will be less expensive because the parties are using one professional instead of two. Mediation is also typically less stressful for both parties to the divorce and especially to their children. In divorce litigation, it has often been seen that child custody and visitation issues are used as emotional bargaining chips to force the more attached parent into conceding on other issues.
Divorce mediation is conducted and concluded privately and confidentially with just the spouses, with or without their respective attorneys, and the neutral third party mediator. In contrast, a litigated divorce proceeding usually involves several court hearings that are open to the public. The financial disclosures filed with the court by the spouses will moreover also become part of the public record. Finally, a judge will be making the final decisions for the parties about the rearing of their children, about the disposition of their property and about how they will generally live from that point onwards.
Despite its many advantages, mediation may not always be the best option for every divorcing couple. If there are trust issues involved, if the spouses have unequal bargaining power, if one or both sides are unwilling to make compromises, if there are indications of domestic violence, substance abuse, mental or emotional impairment on the part of one or both spouses, then mediation may not succeed, or it may work in ways that are not intended nor wanted. A marital settlement agreement that was arrived at through intimidation, coercion or deception would be skewed and unfair.
Mediation is meant to be a voluntary, non-adversarial process by which both spouses willingly cooperate to end their marriage amicably.
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