Using a mediator can help you reach a divorce agreement that both you and your spouse feel is fair. It can also cut court time and save you money.
Divorce is always a difficult process, even if you know it’s the right thing. For many couples, mediation can make it a little less painful.
In mediation, you and your spouse meet with a mediator to work out a divorce agreement. The mediator is neutral – not on one side or the other. He or she can help you discuss issues such as finances, property and custody and child support if you have children.
How does mediation compare to traditional divorce?
A traditional divorce views the divorcing spouses as enemies. Each person’s lawyer tries to get as much as he or she can for the client. If the couple can’t agree, a judge may make the decisions for them. Sometimes, neither person is very happy with the outcome.
In mediation, the couple works to reach an agreement both people think is fair. The mediator acts as a go-between to help them communicate. The couple makes the decisions, so they are more likely to stick with them. Having an agreement beforehand helps the court process go faster and smoother. It’s also more private and comfortable.
Mediation almost always costs much less than traditional divorce. Estimates put the cost of mediation around $3,000. A traditional divorce often costs many times that much.
When can mediation work?
Mediation will work best if:
- You and your spouse both agree on getting divorced
- You can discuss your situation without fighting
- You are interested in staying on good terms with each other
- You basically trust and respect each other
You can be angry at your spouse and still do mediation. The process gives you a chance to talk about your feelings and move past them. You may be able to meet with the mediator one at a time if it’s too hard to meet with your spouse.
Mediation is probably not a good choice if:
- Either partner doesn’t want the divorce
- Your spouse has lied to you in the past about important issues
- Violence or drug or alcohol abuse has played a part in your divorce
- You have children and you strongly disagree about parenting or custody issues
Will I need a lawyer if we choose mediation?
It’s a good idea to have a lawyer advise you about your legal rights before you start mediation. Then you can make sure they are covered in the mediation agreement. You should also have a lawyer review the agreement before you sign it.
A lawyer can file the papers for the divorce and go to court with you if needed. You may not need a lawyer to do these things. You may be able to do them yourself if your case is simple.
How can I find a mediator?
You may know someone who has used a mediator. If not, you can:
- Look in the phone book under “Mediation Services.”
- Get a referral from a family therapist or an attorney who specializes in divorce or family law. Many lawyers and therapists also have training as divorce mediators.
- Call your local or state bar association or the Better Business Bureau.