Many couples wish to finalize their divorce out of court. This explains why alternative modes are increasingly popular nowadays.
One of the highly resorted out-of-court approaches today is divorce mediation.
Why do a lot of spouses choose this option?
Divorce mediation is a practical approach that offers a fast resolution of issues. It is also less contentious; hence, a less stressful alternative to dissolving their marriage.
Did you know there are five stages of divorce mediation?
This article will discuss each stage to help you understand the process.
So if you are considering dissolving your marriage through this out-of-court approach, this post is for you.
Reaching an Agreeable Settlement Through Divorce Mediation
This option is non-adversarial and typically involves only the divorcing spouses and the mediator.
Typically an attorney, the mediator acts as a neutral party.
It is also important to note that the mediator does not act as a judge. They will not make a decision for or against a party. Neither does the mediator provide legal advice on either or both.
Instead, the role of the mediator is only to let the parties understand their respective positions.
As such, the parties have control over the pace of the sessions. They retain the decision-making powers concerning their needs, interests, and concerns.
In addition, there is no strict adherence to the rules of evidence and court procedure in each divorce mediation session.
Contrary to litigation or arbitration, the process allows leniency of the rules to enable the parties to express their side and reach a mutually agreeable compromise.
No wonder divorce mediation is a highly resorted approach in effectively addressing interpersonal issues out of court. These are usually the issues that obstruct resolution.
When Is Divorce Mediation Not the Right Approach
While it is a popular and very effective option, there may be a better choice.
- there is a history of domestic abuse, domineering, or physical violence
- where one spouse has a history of hiding assets without the knowledge of the other
- the spouses are not capable of communicating with each other
- where cooperation between the two parties is unlikely
What Are the Stages of Divorce Mediation
Although it does not follow the strict rules of court procedure, divorce mediation has various steps. The parties need to follow these steps before reaching their final arrangements.
Here are the five stages of a typical divorce mediation process.
Stage 1: Introduction
After submitting their case for divorce mediation, the parties will first meet the mediator.
During the introduction stage, the divorce mediator will explain the process in detail to give the parties an overview of what to expect.
This is also the stage where the mediator will get to know the parties and their circumstances.
Accordingly, the mediator will ask these questions to the spouses, among others:
- How long are they married?
- What are their assets?
- Do they have children?
The mediator will also ask how they will hold the mediation sessions.
Ideally, the parties need to meet face-to-face. However, there may be instances where this is not possible.
So the mediator can arrange a virtual meeting if the parties choose to attend the sessions that way.
Alternatively, the mediator may meet with the spouses separately if their schedules permit otherwise.
Stage 2: Gathering Information
All parties, including the mediator, need to know all the facts to enter into productive discussions.
More importantly, the mediator must know the facts and arrangements the parties have already agreed upon and what they still need to work out.
With a clear picture of everything, the mediator can help the parties determine the equitable distribution of their assets and liabilities.
Typically, the parties need to reach a mutually agreeable settlement over the assets, child custody, and support. If there are remaining issues, the spouses can work them out during the mediation process.
The mediator will require the parties to list their assets during this stage. The spouses will submit pay stubs, bank records, and other financial statements.
If they have minor children, the mediator will guide the spouses in working out custody and visitation arrangements.
The mediator will advise the parties on the legal aspects of property division, custody, and support.
Gathering information is a crucial step in the process before proceeding to the next stage. It is common for this stage to take more than one session. Obtaining financial records may take some time. Or it is also possible the spouses need help to get them.
Additionally, the parties need sound legal advice from the mediator to make well-informed decisions. This is to prevent them from entering into legally binding settlements, which, without proper information, might cause them to regret later.
For this reason, it is important to get an experienced mediator who will take the time to make the parties fully understand their terms.
Stage 3: Expressing Each Spouse’s Interests or Concerns
This is the stage of divorce mediation where the spouses will present their needs and concerns.
Here, the parties can present their side and desired outcome.
The mediator’s goal is to understand each party’s predicament, ensuring their needs and priorities are adequately met. For this reason, the mediator will focus on the primary issues and discuss the parties’ goals.
While it is common for the mediator to meet each spouse separately, joint meetings are highly preferred. This is to give the parties the feeling of complete transparency and not a hint of partiality.
Stage 4: Negotiation
This is what most people think of when they hear about divorce mediation.
In the negotiation stage, the mediator asks the parties to put forward their suggestions to settle their key issues.
After narrowing the options, the mediator will look for the best ones.
In most cases, the best options are products of compromises—where both spouses give and take.
Compromise and concession are the keys for the mediator in helping the parties find common ground and agree on a settlement. However, this can be tricky. The mediator hopes to avoid a situation where one spouse feels like he is losing while the other is winning.
Stage 5: Finalizing the Settlement
The mediator will work on a draft when the parties have settled on one or more of their issues. This draft will contain the terms of the spouses’ arrangement.
After having the chance to review the document thoroughly, the spouses will sign it.
However, the signed document does not finalize the divorce. The parties will still need to submit the same to the court for approval.
Once approved, the court will incorporate the document into its final divorce decree.
Benefits of a Successful Divorce Mediation
Are you considering divorce?
You should go the uncontested route.
One of the significant advantages of successful divorce mediation is it allows the parties to settle without getting contentious.
Divorce mediation is an excellent way for people to divide their properties and work out custody, visitation, and support arrangements.
In addition, this out-of-court option is typically less costly compared to full-blown litigation.
Uncontentious Resolution of Marital Issues
Divorce mediation is popular because this approach is not apt to arouse hostility or conflict. Instead, it provides a platform for divorcing spouses to settle their issues amicably and enter into a mutually agreeable arrangement.
Once the issues are settled, the court is left with no other action to perform but review the settlement. The judge must ensure that the arrangement is fair and legal.
After its determination, the court will consider the spouses’ settlement as it enters a final divorce decree.
Because there are no issues to resolve, divorce is quicker and less costly than litigated cases.
Indeed, divorce mediation is an efficient approach. It makes the entire divorce process simpler, faster, and cheaper.
Is Divorce Mediation a Good Option for You
Divorce mediation is excellent if you and your spouse want to avoid conflict as you settle your affairs.
However, this out-of-court option may only work for some couples.
There are scenarios where divorce mediation will likely fail. Ask yourself if these scenarios apply to you and your spouse:
- Do you have a history of domestic abuse?
- Does your spouse bully or dominate you?
- Is emotional conflict in your relationship high?
- Are communication and cooperation impossible in your relationship?
- Is your spouse hiding money, properties, or assets?
- Is your spouse wasting away your family assets?
- Is your spouse struggling with substance abuse and has not sought treatment?
- Is your spouse asserting that everything is your fault?
If you answered “yes” to at least one of the above questions, divorce mediation might not be for you.
Divorce mediation will not work where hostility or conflict is imminent.
If you cannot even communicate with your spouse, you can’t expect the latter to cooperate, much less negotiate for fair and reasonable terms.
Divorce mediation is a fantastic approach that enables divorcing spouses to gather information, identify critical issues, and negotiate for fair and reasonable terms without going through lengthy and often expensive litigation.
With the help of an experienced mediator, you and your spouse can reach a mutually agreeable settlement.