Working through the settlement details of a divorce can bring out some of the most challenging aspects of one’s personality. Determining what is fair in regards to financial and child sharing arrangements is not so simple in most cases and many couples need outside help when discussing the possibilities. Although allowing a judge to make decisions for your family is certainly a last resort, mediation can, in many cases, streamline the process. A mediator can help you and your spouse (along with your lawyers, if desired) talk things through in a civil manner to determine the best course of action. Mediation can also promote a more favorable environment while setting a positive example for any children involved.
A Neutral Third Party
A mediator is someone who is completely neutral and willing to “hold space” between you and your spouse during discussions. Both parties should feel comfortable with a potential mediator before proceeding; you will also need to decide whether or not your attorneys will be present during meetings. Mediators ensure that both parties get a chance to speak freely and will encourage the listening party to fully hear the other’s point of view before responding. Instead of being a decision maker, the mediator’s job is to facilitate communication and offer suggestions that may work as a compromise between the two of you. The decision to accept any ideas presented lies completely between you and your spouse.
Only You and Your Spouse Have All the Details
Couples that end up in court due to an inability to agree upon a divorce settlement face the very real possibility of being forced to live with a decision that is not in the best interest of all involved. While most judges sincerely try to balance the needs of all parties before making a decision, the reality is that no one except you and your spouse will know all of the details involved with your case. This is particularly important to consider when the well-being of children will be impacted. A mediator is not someone who will take sides or encourage you or your spouse to do anything you aren’t comfortable with; rather, he or she is simply there to facilitate healthy communication between parties.
Minimize Emotional Damage
Everyone has heard at least one divorce court horror story that has ripped a family apart and sent children into therapy later in life. While the majority of courtroom trials are not quite so dramatic, mediation is one of the most equitable ways to work through settlement details with your soon-to-be ex. Children are often the ones who suffer the most and can be spared significant pain if they observe their parents working through challenges in a healthy manner. Agreeing to a compromise discovered through the process of mediation does not require that you and your spouse agree with each other. It just means that the two of you want what is best and wish to move on with life without inflicting unnecessary emotional damage on one another and/or your children.
Start Small to Build a Sense of Trust
By the time a divorce is actually filed, some couples have lost all sense of trust and believe there is no possible way to find an equitable solution on the simplest of issues. This is often a false perception and a mediator can usually help couples find enough common ground to work through the details of a divorce settlement. If the two of you are at complete odds on significant issues such as child custody, working with a mediator to find solutions to smaller issues can sometimes build enough trust to allow you to proceed with larger issues (such as who will receive the family home and how child support will be arranged). Dividing personal property with relatively small financial value is a great place to start – you may concede to allow your spouse to retain the family vehicle while you take ownership of the furniture, for example.
Potential Drawback of Mediation
Keep in mind, however, there is a caveat to be aware of once your enter into mediation with an attorney. Let’s say you and your ex begin the mediation process with the best intentions, but somewhere along the way find yourselves at an impasse; disagreements escalate and one or both of you decides that it’s not feasible to resolve the situation through mediation. In this case, you would both forfeit the opportunity to retain the mediating attorney due to conflict of interest. Once you’ve opened the attorney-client relationship among yourself and your ex in the mediation process, you relinquish any possibility of a continuing legal relationship or litigation representation.
Mediation is Required Before Going to Court
California law requires all couples to participate in mediation before their case will be heard in front of a judge. Although the law cannot force anyone to accept solutions presented during mediation, it is typically in your best interest to remain open to the possibility of finding resolve with your spouse outside of the courtroom. Mediation can significantly reduce the expenses associated with divorce and is often much quicker than a courtroom trial. You have the right to have your lawyer present at all meetings and reject any mediator who you are not comfortable with. In nearly all cases, mediation can help couples find resolve on at least a portion of their settlement issues while minimizing the long term emotional damage of an extended trial.
If you and your partner are interested in mediation services, our experienced legal team is ready and prepared to help you move forward with confidence. If you’re considering mediation as an option, please contact us at 888-228-1098 to schedule a confidential consultation. We will review all of your choices for a dissolution of marriage and help you determine the best path forward.