The divorce process can be a tense and emotional matter, requiring immense time and effort. Simply filing the paperwork can be difficult enough without a drawn-out court battle to accompany it.
Many couples opt to take a less contentious route and participate in divorce mediation. Although this process can have tense moments, a mediator will guide you through the negotiations, provide information in a neutral manner and help bridge the gap. Matters are often settled quickly and more efficiently.
If you have recently filed for a divorce and don’t want to hash out the private details of your life in a courtroom, then divorce mediation is an alternative that should be considered.
Today, we break down the three main steps so you know what to expect in a divorce mediation at Elizabeth Henson, Attorney Mediator, P.C.
THE First Meeting
This meeting will be an informative session where the mediator explains what to expect in a divorce mediation, including her specific process for guiding your mediation, as well as answer any questions that either party might have. Depending on your divorce mediator, this might be handled by phone or in person.
At this time, the mediator will often inquire about the specifics of your relationship and the issues within the divorce that need to be negotiated. She’ll also provide confidentiality forms for both parties to sign, stating that whatever happens during mediation cannot be discussed in a courtroom.
The first meeting is the icebreaker and information session that helps the mediator understand exactly what needs to be discussed and accomplished before the mediating begins.
The divorce negotiations often begin in the first meeting. Your mediator may suggest dealing with the simpler topics first in order for both parties to “practice” coming to quick, mutually beneficial agreements before tackling the bigger, more emotional issues.
Negotiations won’t always be so straightforward, but your mediator will try to help keep both you and your spouse on track and assist in the brainstorming of solutions. She will help apply communication tools that can even be used in future interactions with your ex-spouse.
It’s important that you come to mediation with an open mind, a commitment to compromise, and a willingness to understand the other side’s point of view so that the process is as painless as possible. A divorce mediator will be there to facilitate the conversation, but it’s largely up to both participants to control emotions and approach matters sensibly.
Finishing the Agreement
Once the negotiations are over, and at the parties’ request, the mediator will draft the agreement reflecting the outcomes of your mediation. If you are co-parents, then a parenting plan is included as well. These agreements are usually prepared and sent to the parties within a week to ten days after the meeting.
Until the agreement is signed, it is not legally binding and you are entitled to have your divorce lawyer review and advise you on all points. Once signed, submitted and approved by a judge, both sides must adhere to the agreement or be held responsible by the courts (subject to circumstances such as fraud or lack of full financial disclosure).
What to Expect in a Divorce Mediation
Even if you’ve come to a decision that divorce is the only answer, it doesn’t mean that your only option is to settle matters in a dramatic courtroom showdown. Here at Elizabeth Henson, Attorney Mediator, P.C., I’ve helped countless couples take a healthier route.
Divorce mediation is a civil, more cooperative approach to working through issues with your spouse so that you can move forward in your separate lives. It’s confidential, often less expensive and usually less contentious when you choose to work with a neutral, third-party mediator. Of course, you always have the option of having an attorney assist you, either in mediation or outside of mediation. The process of mediation and the assistance of an attorney are not mutually exclusive.
For more of what to expect in a divorce mediation and to discuss next steps, please get in touch.