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Litigation can be time-consuming and expensive. And when it comes to divorce, those are two things you probably want to avoid. So how can divorcing couples avoid the lengthy court calendar and extensive filing fees?
One option is divorce mediation, where both parties sit down with an independent mediator in a less formal setting, as opposed to appearing before a judge in a courtroom. But even if you determine that mediation is right for you (and your spouse agrees), how do you figure out which mediator is right for your divorce? Here are a few tips:
Find Someone Who Knows Divorce
Finding the right mediator will have a lot to do with how mediation works. First off, mediators generally specialize in a certain area of law. So the mediator you want for a small business contract dispute may not be the one you want in charge of your divorce. Divorce mediators will be familiar with state and local divorce, custody, and support laws, and will also have experience working with divorcing couples, and the potential emotional and legal landmines that could entail. You or your attorney can review a mediator's experience before committing to choosing her.
Find Someone Neutral
The entire idea of a mediator is that she is unaffiliated with either spouse, and has no stake in the outcome of the divorce, other than to expedite the process and come to an agreement that both parties accept. The mediator shouldn't have prior relationships with either spouse, and neither spouse's attorney should stand in as the mediator. Both parties should feel confident that the mediator is neutral and will handle the proceedings without bias.
Find Someone Confidential
Mediation confidentiality is a big deal, especially in a divorce. Knowing that mediation discussions are "off the record" can encourage more honesty from spouses, which has the dual effect of expediting negotiations and, possibly, achieving some catharsis through the process. Additionally, if you're choosing a local mediator, most divorcing couples don't want their dirty laundry hung out for the neighbors to see. You can ask that all parties, including the mediator, sign confidentiality agreements and refuse to disclose the details of the mediation.
And if you need some tips for finding your divorce lawyer, just head to our legal directory.