If you are planning a divorce, but hope to divorce as amicably as possible, consider using mediation instead of traditional litigation. In litigation, you, and your spouse each have your own attorneys and each of you tries to be the “winner.” When it is over and the divorce is final, both spouses often feel beaten up and neither feels like a winner.
Mediation is a less adversarial way to settle your issues. Mediation can help you and your spouse resolve your differences without going to court, and it can help you maintain a positive relationship after divorce.
How the Mediation Process Works
In mediation, you and your spouse may or may not each have your own attorney. It is your choice. In most cases, each spouse has their own attorney at least giving them advice in the background if they are not attending the mediation. The spouses and their attorneys meet with a neutral mediator who guides them through a discussion of all the necessary issues.
The mediator’s role is to facilitate communication between the spouses. The mediator does not give legal advice even though the mediator is often an attorney. Sometimes a mediator will make recommendation but only at the request of both sides.
Mediation sessions usually last about two hours but can stretch into three hours. Ideally, only two or three sessions are needed, but some cases may need more sessions. The goal of mediation is for the couple to make their own settlement agreement without court intervention.
Session 1 – Parenting issues. The first session is dedicated to parenting issues such as which parent will provide the primary home for the children, the parenting schedule, holidays, school vacations, how will the children be transported from one home to the other and the like. There is a worksheet the parents use to help them make these decisions on holidays. For example, if one parent spends Memorial Day with the children, does the other parent get the children for the 4th of July? It behooves the parents to think about these things before coming to the mediation meeting, so they have some idea of what they hope to achieve.
Session 2 – Financial issues. The spouses are asked to fill out a detailed financial form which contains a list of their assets and liabilities along with income and expenses. They also are asked to bring all financial documents to assist in helping them come to an agreement about the division of assets. If they own real estate, they should bring in a current appraisal of the value of the property. If they do their due diligence and are transparent with their finances, it makes it much easier to come to a settlement agreement.