If divorce is on the horizon, you may have visions of duking things out in court, but did you know you have many other options available to you that offer a faster, less emotionally charged resolution? Mediation is one such solution, and here are some frequently asked questions.
What is Mediation?
Mediation is an informal process involving talks with a mediator, a neutral third party that helps you settle the various matters of your divorce, such as alimony, child support, distribution of property and custody.
Some mediators meet with each party one on one while others prefer talking with you at the same time. Each approach has its advantages and disadvantages, and the most effective one will depend on a variety of factors unique to your situation. Make sure to discuss this with the mediator for his input.
Mediators guide the process and aid you in making your own decisions, he does not make any for you. This is different from arbitration, which also involves a neutral third party. But, in this instance, he acts much like a judge would in court, hearing both sides and rendering a decision.
Mediators must remain neutral, which means they cannot give you any legal advice, nor can they favor one spouse over the other.
For the most part, it is quicker, less expensive and far less emotionally charged than going through the courts to secure a divorce. If you and your spouse will continue to have communication and contact after your divorce, such as in the case of couples with children, going this route may bode well for interactions post-divorce.
There is no requirement to reach any sort of agreement if you enter into mediation—if you find it isn’t working, you and your spouse can stop, and move onto other options.
How Do We Protect Our Legal Rights?
Divorce involves many matters of a legal nature, and it is important you understand your rights before making any final decisions. For this reason, it is good to find a lawyer experienced in mediation with whom you can consult during the proceedings. You can also do some independent research on your own, but at some point, you would probably want to consult with a lawyer.
At the very least, consult with an attorney before signing any paperwork pertaining to agreements reached between you and your soon-to-be-ex spouse.
How Long Does Mediation Take?
This really depends on your particular situation. Some couples can settle all their issues with one session, while others will need to meet over a course of weeks or months. On average, expect to spend at least three to five sessions with the mediator.
How Much Does Mediation Cost?
The cost can vary between mediators as they set their own fees. Generally, they charge hourly, with average costs ranging from 100 to 300 dollars. Typically, there will also be a ‘set-up’ fee where the mediator gathers information on your case and learns more about what you plan on working through during the sessions.
If you and your spouse are on somewhat amicable terms, and are open to working out your issues without involving the courts, this may be a good option to pursue.