Knowing the basic steps of divorce mediation can help you understand what to expect from the process. At Elizabeth Henson, Attorney Mediator, P.C. in Denver, I find that providing a framework can help my clients feel better prepared. While each situation may differ slightly than others, divorce mediation generally consists of five basic components.
This is usually the foundation stage for mediation. You provide your mediator background information and your mediator will give you insight regarding the next steps, talking you through what to expect as the process moves forward.
Sometimes, the mediator will gather information about how you and your spouse communicate to determine the best approach for steering positive and productive conversation. At this point, there may be a simple assessment to determine areas where both parties agree and disagree. This will help your mediator decide how best to facilitate resolving any issues.
Information and Research
For successful mediation, both sides need to provide information regarding their situation, such as a complete (and documented) picture of finances. This stage may or may not be included during your first meeting with a mediator. Sometimes, certain information or paperwork may not be immediately available or under dispute. Your mediator can advise you on ways to track down the information you need so that you can move forward.
If your mediator is an attorney like me, they will also provide a general look at divorce laws and legal rules that may apply to your divorce. This can include information about how the typical court process for divorce, as well as feedback on possible court outcomes on issues such as spousal maintenance, child support, property division, and child custody. This information is meant to provide both parties with a better idea of the law and their responsibilities.
Expressing Needs and Interests
During this stage, the mediator helps the spouses determine their individual reasons for wanting particular outcomes. Outlining these interests helps with finding resolutions that address each spouse’s top priorities, concerns and needs successfully. Areas that are often at issue include children, property, debt, spousal maintenance, child support, and custody. Framing the needs and interests of both sides during mediation helps lay the foundation for any negotiating that may need to take place. Some items may be easily agreed upon, while other issues may require further negotiations and compromise.
The discussion of your needs and wants may take place in individual rooms or jointly. Your mediator will help determine what will work best for your circumstances.
Coming to Agreement
At this point in mediation, the goal is to have an understanding of your finances, your assets and debts, and your legal responsibilities. You also know what your spouse wants and have had the opportunity to discuss what outcome you wish to see. Now comes negotiation and coming to an agreement that works for both sides.
Negotiation sometimes begins with an exploration of various options. Your mediator will help both spouses evaluate and discuss possibilities in an effort to help narrow the choices to those most suitable for both parties. To get to a final agreement, both sides may need to make concessions and compromises. It can be one of the toughest in the basic steps of divorce mediation, involving a great deal of problem-solving, creative thinking and patience. The ultimate goal is to arrive at a solution that most closely meets the needs and interests of both spouses.
In the last of the basic steps of divorce mediation, a tentative agreement (known as a Memorandum of Understanding, or MOU) is written and provided to both spouses for review outside of mediation and at their own pace. This agreement, however, is not binding until it is signed by both parties. Each of you can have an attorney review the agreement and provide legal counsel on the contents before you sign it. If you remain in agreement, you will then sign the MOU and submit it to the court for approval.
Here at Elizabeth Henson, Attorney Mediator, P.C. in Denver, I will help you through the basic steps of divorce mediation, empower you to take control of your own future, and assist you in finding a settlement that will work best for everyone. To learn more about how I can help you make the transition with dignity, please call or get in touch with me today.