What Are the Stages of Divorce Mediation?
There are two main categories of mediation that are possible when going through a divorce: court-ordered mediation and private mediation. Court-ordered mediation is mandatory and requires you to attend every scheduled session of mediation. If you miss even one mandatory mediation session, the court could render a negative decision against your or otherwise punish you. Private mediation is more lenient and will not result in punishment if you miss a scheduled session. However, you still should do your best to attend every scheduled session or notify relevant parties when the session will be impossible to attend. A mediation session can always be rescheduled.
A divorce mediator is a neutral party who knows family law and is trained to mediate disputes among divorcing couples. The divorce mediator enables couples to work out their differences without going through court hearings.
The divorce mediator is often a former commissioner or a retired judge. The mediator also could be a lawyer or someone who is not licensed to practice law but is still a professional. Whether undergoing court-ordered mediation or private mediation, the process is the same. The following are the five stages of divorce mediation.
Understanding the Mediation Process
You cannot undergo divorce mediation without first knowing how the process works. Before mediation begins, both divorcing spouses will meet with the mediator and learn how the process will proceed.
The mediator will tell you what to expect. That will help ensure both parties have reasonable expectations about what divorce meditation could accomplish. The mediator will also learn about the length of the marriage, if any children are involved, and the job status of each spouse.
This process helps you have more realistic expectations. It also helps the mediator get a better idea of how the case might proceed.
The mediator will need information from you and your spouse. You likely will need to provide evidence that includes financial records, titles of property ownership, and individual income over several years. Whatever the mediator requests, you must and should provide. These records will help the mediator reach decisions regarding important matters, like:
- Child custody, visitation, and support.
- Division of marital assets.
The mediator should help to guide you on the types of information needed to rule fairly in your divorce case. A good mediator likely would provide you and your spouse with a checklist of items to gather, like bank statements, pay stubs, and family expenses.
The mediator also could help to answer any questions during the information-gathering part of the mediation process. The mediator also should create a summary of the information obtained and help guide you on gathering additional information to render the most reasonable decisions.
Outlining the Issues
After the information is gathered and summarized, the next step is to determine the critical issues impacting the divorce. Outlining the divorce issues helps the mediator better understand the conflicts and how the divorcing spouses view them.
In some cases, like child custody, both spouses have similar interests that overlap. However, there will likely be issues that separate both parties and require a third party to resolve. The mediator might go through this process with you individually or in a setting with your ex-partner.
If the divorce is contentious, separate meetings to discuss the issues might be the best way to move forward. If you can conduct the process amicably, it will go faster and cost less than if you did so separately.
Once the facts are in and the issues are fully understood, the mediation process can proceed to the next step. That step is negotiating the primary issues that are contested. The mediator can provide a viewpoint of a reasonable third party. The mediator can make a more reasonable assessment of either side’s arguments versus needs and can help steer divorce negotiations in the right direction. The idea is to eliminate points of contention by enabling both sides to reach a relatively amicable settlement on issues like child custody, alimony, and asset division.
Create a Settlement to End Mediation
When spouses have agreed upon the issues of the divorce, the mediator and the spouses will work together to draft a settlement agreement. Both parties have the chance, along with their lawyers, to review the agreement before signing.
It is important to note that signing the settlement does not finalize the divorce. It just determines what both spouses have agreed upon. Both parties will need to file the settlement agreement with the court. Some mediators will do this, so make sure you ask your mediator whether they will do this step for you.
A major benefit of mediation is that the spouses can avoid court hearings and pursue an uncontested divorce. This means the divorce has no issues that require a judge to solve. The judge will only need to review the settlement and determine if it is fair for both parties and that it is legal. In most cases, courts can finalize these divorces sooner.
Marlton Divorce Lawyers at Goldstein & Mignogna, P.A. Can Help You With Mediation
If you are considering a divorce and want to go through mediation or have to go through mediation, our experienced Marlton divorce lawyers at Goldstein & Mignogna, P.A. can help. Call us at 856-890-9400 or contact us online to schedule an initial consultation. Located in Marlton, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout South Jersey, including Burlington County, Camden County, and Gloucester County.