In our first post about divorce options, we discussed Limited Assistance Representation. Our second installment in the series delves into the world of divorce mediation.
Mediation is often viewed as an advisable alternative to do-it-yourself divorce because it may lower the cost of divorce while allowing another individual — a mediator — to be involved in the process, in hopes of handling it more peacefully. A mediator’s role is to be a neutral third party who facilitates a discussion around issues such as property division (how to divide joint assets and liabilities, pensions and retirement accounts), alimony, and post-divorce medical coverage. If the couple has children together, other issues that may be discussed include custody, parenting time, holiday and vacation schedules, extracurricular activities, uninsured medical costs, child support, and, potentially, the contributions of each parent to the cost of college/higher education.
Mediators do not provide legal representation to the parties. Rather, they are trained and skilled professionals who foster dialogue between the parties in a respectful manner and discuss potential outcomes with them. An important aspect of the mediation process is that the couple comes in with an open mind and is willing to enter into discussions and compromise if needed. The parties are each advised to consult an attorney of their choosing before they sign anything to ensure that it is fair, reflects all of their wishes, and addresses all property, assets, liabilities, and child custody/support issues accordingly.
Some couples anticipate a traditional litigated divorce and both parties retain counsel, but later on realize they are more in agreement than previously thought. At this point, mediation can still be explored and utilized to resolve any issues that are not agreed upon. It can be helpful to have a neutral third party facilitate discussions that can open dialogue around sensitive topics, paving the way for resolution without litigation.
Divorce involving mediation often allows for a better future relationship with your ex-spouse because fighting may be minimized and all discussions are handled in private. This can be an especially good approach for couples who have children together because they are able to continue to have a relationship with one another post-divorce. Minimizing hostility is especially important for effective co-parenting.
However, mediation may not be a good option if you are likely to be manipulated by your spouse. The mediator’s role is to make sure that the divorce outcome is one that both parties can settle on, and not necessarily one that is fair to both parties. All financial information is presented voluntarily, so if you believe your spouse may be hiding assets, then this option may not be advisable. Most importantly, if you might feel uncomfortable properly advocating for your needs, then you may want to avoid this option.