In addition to being expensive and stressful, divorce can take months or years to obtain. Fortunately, there are other ways to divorce other than having a long, nasty court battle that costs thousands or many thousands of dollars. While mediation is required in some states and voluntary in others, the process can be a preferable alternative to divorce court for many couples.
Divorce mediation is a process whereby spouses use a trained and impartial mediator to help them create an agreement that resolves their issues. The mediator doesn't function as a lawyer or force spouses into a settlement they don't want. Rather, the spouses negotiate for what they want, and if there's a problem with agreement on a particular issue, a mediator helps resolve it in a way that gains the parties' trust without forcing anyone to “take it or leave it."
Mediation agreements made in a voluntary process are essentially binding contracts if they're in writing and signed by the parties. If one party breaches the agreement, the nonbreaching party can go to court to enforce it. If mediation is required by the court, a mediation settlement is included with your other divorce papers as part of the court's divorce decree or judgment. In this instance, mediation becomes a court order that a party can enforce by filing motions for contempt of court or petitions for violating the agreement.
There are many benefits to using mediation to get a divorce, but the process only works if both sides are willing to compromise and work towards a settlement. If only one party is open to negotiating, mediation will only be a waste of time. If, however, both parties truly want to resolve their differences without going to court, mediation is an ideal way to get divorced.
It's important to note that even with mediation, as with court proceedings, no one will be completely happy with the settlement, but if you know that going in, mediation could work for you and for your spouse.
Some of the reasons to try mediation include:
1. Mediation costs less than going to court.
Because mediation operates without the need to hire an attorney, the expense of mediation is significantly cheaper than going through a courthouse divorce.
2. It's less agonizing than a court battle.
Mediators keep the stress level low so that both parties can arrive at an amicable settlement they can each live with. Without a judge, attorneys, and the need to formally present evidence, mediation achieves its purpose because both parties are often open to compromise, whereas in court, the goal is all about winning.
3. It helps parties achieve amicable co-parenting.
By avoiding the animosity of a court trial, the parties are often able to co-parent better after a successful mediation than if they had endured a court battle.
4. Mediation is faster than courthouse divorces.
Divorces can take months or even years to complete. Mediated divorces are much faster, often occurring in a matter of a few months.
5. It allows you—not a judge—to make decisions.
When both parties go into mediation open to compromise, you and your spouse—rather than a judge—decide the terms of your divorce.
6. Mediation often settles all divorce issues.
If you and your spouse negotiate in good faith and not just for the sake of appearances, you can resolve all issues without going to court.
7. You can put your children first.
In long, stressful divorces, children often seem like an afterthought because litigants' primary concerns are about spousal support, child support, and their financial future. With mediation, while these issues are still of major importance, the ability to bargain with your spouse at a low-stress level allows you to think about the effect of your settlement on your children.
Make sure you find a divorce mediator who has the proper credentials, experience, and has had between 40 and 60 hours of mediation training. When mediation works, it can make a huge difference in how you view your divorce and move on with your life.