Divorce doesn’t have to be a contentious legal proceeding. Today, many couples are turning to divorce mediation as an amicable way to come to an agreement on matters such as property distribution, spousal support, child support, custody, and visitation. Unlike an uncontested divorce, which allows a judge to make the important decisions regarding your family, mediation puts you in control of your final divorce agreement.
If you decide the mediation is right for you, both you and your spouse must select a mediator. A mediator is a neutral third party who will guide you through the mediation process. Because the mediator must remain unbiased, he or she will be unable to give advice to either party.
Please note that some states do not require a license for mediators. If your state doesn’t have established education standards for mediators, you should look for someone who meets the standards of a professional association or the court. In many cases, mediators are family law attorneys who will guide the settlement discussion with your spouse and handle preparing and filing the paperwork for your final agreement with the court.
Even though mediation allows you to work with your spouse to decide on the terms of your settlement, it is a good idea to have a divorce lawyer on your side during your sessions. Unlike a mediator, your divorce lawyer can offer advice to ensure the agreement is in your best interest. Your divorce lawyer can also explain the state’s divorce and custody laws and answer any legal questions you may have.
Not every situation lends itself to divorce mediation. Each side must be willing to compromise and motivated to come to an agreement on the terms of the divorce. Before making the decision to pursue mediation without a divorce lawyer, you have to decide if you and your spouse are equals when it comes to your ability to negotiation on important matters. If your relationship with your spouse is abusive, mediation may not be an option.
If you are interested in avoiding a trial, mediation isn’t your only option. Your divorce lawyer can negotiate with your spouse’s attorney in order to settle your divorce without going to trial.