Divorce need not always end in bitter battles. You can choose to part ways with your spouse amicably, and if you have kids, maintaining a healthy relationship with your partner post divorce is essential for their adjustment.
If communication between you and your spouse has ceased, but you want to negotiate and come to a mutual agreement over the terms of the divorce, then you may consider divorce mediation.
In this post, we tell you what divorce mediation is, its process, the questions to ask when choosing a divorce mediator, and more.
What Is Divorce Mediation?
It is a cooperative and mutually beneficial process in which the separating couple meets to resolve issues related to child support, distribution of property, etc. before filing for a divorce. Mediation makes the process of divorce quick, less stressful, and significantly less expensive. A mediator can be appointed by the court or the couple can seek one on their own.
The divorce mediator remains neutral and facilitates the process of reaching agreements. Since this is a voluntary process in most US states, either of the parties has the right to object to mediation (1). In such instances, the couple will proceed to divorce by trial.
When Can A Couple Go For Divorce Mediation?
You may go for divorce mediation under the below circumstances.
- Both are keen on getting a divorce: When both partners agree that their marriage is over and it is best to part ways, divorce mediation is helpful in closing the formalities related to children and finances. In such cases, it is easier to negotiate and find a solution, as the partners are willing to cooperate.
- There is no abuse involved: If one of the partners is abusive, then the court or the mediators would not advise divorce mediation. There is always a risk of the abused partner agreeing to the terms of the intimidating partner out of fear.
- The partners are willing to disclose their finances: One of the challenging aspects of divorce mediation is a financial settlement. This is possible only when both e partners are willing to disclose their financial information. Mediation can only run smoothly when all information is on the table.
- The couple considers children’s welfare: Divorce can be hard on children. When both partners prioritize their children’s well-being above their differences, mediation can help them come to an understanding on child custody.
Ultimately, everything boils down to a consensus between the couple. If they are willing to cooperate with each other, then mediation can make divorcing a much more simple process.
How Can Divorce Mediation Help?
Apart from making the divorce a peaceful affair, here are some other benefits of choosingmediation.
- Saves time and money: Most of the time-consuming and critical issues, such as child support, alimony, child custody, etc., can be sorted out through negotiation. In addition to saving time and money, this will also save you from multiple visits to the court for attending the court proceedings.
- Easy on the children: Mediation helps the partners to settle child custody and support constructively while saving the children from the harshness of a trial divorce.
- Peace prevails: A divorce is never easy; there will be fights, arguments, and disagreements. But these need to stop at some point in time and divorce mediation gives you that chance. In mediation, the focus will be on finding solutions that are in the best interests of both the wife and the husband.
- No strangers: Unlike in a court trial, divorce mediation happens between the partners and the mediators. This way, you can have the negotiations without the involvement of strangers, and put forth your points without hesitation.
- Have control: In divorce mediation, you have the strings in your hands. During negotiations, if you feel something is going against your interest, you can always intervene and express your point of view. Since mediation is all about arriving at a mutual agreement, the rate of satisfaction is high.
- Complete confidentiality: In divorce mediation, the privacy of the couple is protected. All forms of communication and information occur between couple and mediator. The Uniform Mediation Act (USA) emphasizes protecting the information except under exceptional situations (2).
Mediation is advised to make things less difficult for a couple who is already under stress due to divorce. In spite of its usefulness, divorce mediation may not be an option under certain circumstances.
When Is Mediation Not Helpful?
Sometimes it is good to avoid mediation and proceed straight to a court trial. Here are some such cases where divorce mediation cannot help.
- When one or both partners are not willing to compromise; if you are too emotional to speak or advocate for yourself.
- When you are in an abusive relationship, and there is a threat to your safety.
- You have unresolved issues, and hold strong grudges.
- If one of the partners is deliberately hiding information and purposefully complicating the process.
You may talk to a lawyer to understand if mediation works in your case. They may also help you choose a mediator.
What Are The Questions To Ask A Divorce Mediator Before Hiring?
Hiring an efficient divorce mediator is crucial for the success of the process. Here are some questions you might want to ask a divorce mediator before hiring them.
1. “What are your qualifications?”
While it is not always mandatory for a divorce mediator to be an attorney, it is important to check their qualifications and past track records to ensure they are qualified and experienced enough to handle any hurdles that may occur during the mediation process.
2. “What is your meditation style?”
Usually, there are two types of mediation styles — directive and facilitative. In the directive style, the mediator tries to direct the couple as per their perspective or the court’s orders. In the facilitative style, the mediator helps the couple to process each issue and come to a mutual agreement. Experienced mediators may use both styles wherever they are applicable.
3. “Do you allow private negotiation sessions?”
In the case of conflicted couples, the mediator would meet each partner separately and move both towards a settlement. But in such cases, the couple entirely depends on the mediator for information and may not know each other’s standpoint. Hence, this must be used only when needed.
4. “How would you handle out-of-the-line and dishonest behavior?”
There is no guarantee that both partners will behave with maturity throughout the mediation process. But at the beginning of the procedure, the mediator can get the couple to sign a full disclosure and full cooperation document. This will also include the mediator’s right to suspend the mediation if the rules are broken.
5. “How long will each mediation session take and what is the cost?”
The duration and cost depend on the mediator. Some split the sessions into parts which will last from 3-4 hours, while others continue the session until the couple comes to a mutual agreement. Ask them about it and also the fee they would charge for the job.
6. “Do you provide services such as preparation and filing of court documents?”
This will help you to most easily see your deal through start to the end, and will reduce the cost of hiring multiple people.
The success of divorce mediation depends on the competency of the mediator. Not all mediators have the experience to deal with all situations and conflicts. Find a mediator who is experienced in handling your kind of case, shows interest in your case, and conveys a desire to help you reach resolution.
What Is The Process Of Divorce Mediation?
The mediation process differs from couple to couple and state to state (3). Below are some of the most common stages in divorce mediation in the US.
- The introduction: This is the first stage of the divorce mediation process. After selecting a mediator, the couple explains the situation and what each partner wants and expects from the divorce. The mediator listens to both views. Based on this, the partners and mediator work together to lay the foundation and draft a plan for how mediation is to be carried out. The couple can then accept or recommend any changes.
- Gathering information: Usually this stage can be divided into two parts.
a. Summarizing: The mediator may begin the process by explaining the laws pertaining to the child custody/support, distribution of property, granting alimony, etc. This will also include laws pertaining to taxes, life insurance, and retirement. This information is essential to frame your approach towards each issue.
The mediator will want to know details about your financial assets and ask for supporting documents. They will review the documents and prepare a statement of assets.
b. Making a to-do list: In the process of summarizing the financial details, the mediator might ask for some additional information. If needed, they will guide you on how to procure it.
For example, if there was a joint insurance policy for which neither partner could locate the policy number, the mediator might suggest meeting the broker who sold the policy or writing to the insurance company. All such assets for which there is insufficient information are removed from the summary and placed in the to-do list.
The partners, who have all the information handy, might want to rush through this stage, but it is the mediator’s job to make sure that both parties are aware of all the facts and agree with the way they are summarized.
- Finding the best interests: After acquiring all necessary information and understanding the situation, the mediator asks each partner to list out their individual expectations from the settlement process. This will help the mediator to frame a settlement that is in favor of both the partners. As it is not always possible to mediate a settlement that can satisfy all expectations, the partners must be ready to compromise in some areas. The mediator focuses on reaching compromise on the most important interests. You may have these sessions separately with the mediator or along with your spouse.
- Negotiations: Here, the wife and husband work on addressing their most important issues. The mediator helps the couple to work out the possible options and scenarios and narrow down to the ones that will work best for both the partners. At the end of the negotiations stage, the partners will be able to reach a consensus.
- Conclusion: This is the last stage of the divorce mediation process. Once both parties have found common ground, the mediator prepares a settlement agreement and circulates it to both parties to review with their attorneys. The agreement contains a summary of all essential points, which are the outcome of the mediation process. It is submitted to the court as a part of the dissolution of marriage on no-fault grounds.
If the couple fails to agree with the negotiation process, or if they have reached an impasse, the mediator might recommend another session. It is up to the partners to agree or decline. If they refuse, the court interferes and settles the divorce case in a series of trials.
For a mediation process to run smoothly, both the partners must be ready to settle the disputes. If you are willing to compromise, then a few tips can come in handy.
Tips To Make Your Divorce Mediation Successful
The success or failure of divorce mediation totally depends on the willingness of the couple to cooperate. Here are some tips the partners may follow for successful divorce mediation.
- Be prepared: Do your homework, and know about the related laws and regulations of your state. Gather all information about the joint assets and keep paperwork accessible.
- Control the temptation to blame: You might feel a lot of resentment and anger toward your have a thousand things against your partner, but blaming each other will only make the situation worse. Have clarity abouton what you want from the divorce and clearly communicate your needs.
- Prepare to handle the triggers: Even though you want the process to be smooth, your spouse might say something out of line. Be prepared to handle such situations. Would you retort or ignore and show maturity? Before sitting down for mediation, make up your mind to breathe your way through triggering handle words or actions. that could trigger your emotions.
- Take some time off: It is not always possible to handle the situation with utmost maturity; after all, divorce isyou are going through a painful process. If at any point, At any point of time, if you feel that you are going to lose it, take a break, think about your ultimate goal, and decide if these minor distractions are worth paying attention to. Learn to ignore minor stuff.
- Be flexible: You might begin mediation with certain expectations,, but during the mediation process, you could be asked to give up something. Instead of staying adamant, evaluate how much the issue means to you.; If possible, try tobe flexible enough to let go of it. This will help in easing the negotiations and concluding them.
- Seek help: Whether a friend, lawyer, or a family member, . alk to your trusted allies. Relay to them your thoughts and accept their input. This will give you confidence in asserting your needs clearly during the mediation process.
If you and your partner are open enough to compromise on some matters and want to close the process at the earliest, then you will get your divorce sooner than later.
How Long After Mediation Will Your Divorce Be Final?
It usually takes 120 days for 1A divorce and 90 days for 1B divorce (4) for the divorce to be finalized after a successful mediation. If both partners are clear on child custody, alimony, distribution of assets, etc., and the ground for dissolution of marriage is ‘irrecoverable damages,’ they will need to fill in certain forms (specific to each state) and file the divorce in the court.
The court will then review the case and grant a divorce. The time between the grant of divorce and it becoming final is called the nisi period. If neither spouse seeks any modification, the divorce will enter the nisi period. This period gives the couple one last chance to rethink and change their mind. After this, the divorce will be finalized, and the partners can request the court for the divorce decree.
Divorce is painful and will take you through an emotional upheaval. But you can make it less painful through divorce mediation, which gives a ray of hope for couples who wish to part ways peacefully.
Do you have an experience to share on divorce mediation? Let us know in the comments section below.
2. Shawn Conway; Uniform Mediation Act (USA): Legal privilege for all mediation communications; Conway-Partners.
3. Lucia Valentova; Mandatory mediation in family law issues with domestic violence- limits and experience from US; De Gruyter
4. Finalizing a divorce; Commonwealth of Massachusetts.