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When facing divorce, mediation may be a fantastic alternative to an acrimonious adversarial proceeding. But what is divorce mediation?
Mediation is a cooperative form of dispute resolution that attempts to bring divorcing spouses to the realization that by working together, the easier it will be for them to part.
So what goes on in divorce mediation, and how does it work?
Agreeing to Mediation
A couple cannot legally divorce without filing the proper papers with a court, but the nuts and bolts of a divorce agreement can be entirely agreed upon without stepping foot in a courtroom. Either on a divorcing couple's own or at the direction of a court or attorneys, spouses can contact a neutral third party, aka a mediator, to help negotiate a divorce settlement.
Effect of Mediation on Divorce Case
Unlike arbitration or traditional litigation, a divorce mediation typically has no binding effect on the parties who participate. If one spouse does not agree with the results of the mediation, he or she can refuse to settle and continue litigating the divorce in court.
However, if both parties do reach a divorce settlement agreement in mediation, the settlement can be offered up for final court approval. Divorce settlements fairly negotiated through divorce mediation are likely to be approved.
What a Mediator Does
Since a mediator cannot legally force either spouse to do anything, he or she acts largely to facilitate communication between the parties and encourage dispute resolution in a civil manner. Mediators may choose to meet with both parties separately or have all parties meet face-to-face.
Mediators may also collect information about divorce priorities, assets, finances, and family concerns from both parties to get a better picture of optimal outcomes. If need be, divorce mediators can hire experts to assess property values or a spouse's finances. These mediators may also offer potential solutions to disputes between spouses, like how to deal with college tuition.
You Can Have an Attorney Present
Although mediation occurs outside of court, you can certainly have your divorce attorney present during any and all divorce mediation sessions. Your attorney may advise you on what information you should share with the mediator or spouse, but he or she will also be billing you for that time.
Mediation can be a much less stressful way to wrap up a divorce, but you might wish to consult with a divorce attorney before beginning mediation.