Avoiding Divorce Court: An Intro to Mediation

For many divorcing spouses, the idea of family court is one that fills them with dread. While some divorces must necessarily be decided by a judge, this route is not always needed. This is where mediation comes in. It is an out-of-court procedure that can help settle your divorce while offering a number of advantages over litigation. Our Phoenix divorce attorney can represent you whether your case is settled in mediation or goes to trial.

What is mediation?

Mediation is a type of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) in which divorcing spouses confidentially negotiate and settle various issues like property division, child support, and other matters. A third party, known as a mediator, oversees this process. The mediator does not represent either party, has no personal stake in the outcome of the divorce, and cannot compel either spouse to agree to anything.

But the mediator can explain to you and your attorney such matters as the likely outcome of trying a particular issue in court, which can help you weigh the risks of litigation versus the benefits of settling. The mediator can also assist you in possibly reaching a compromise or developing a creative solution that a judge probably won’t order. The ultimate goal is to facilitate productive negotiations between the parties and reach a settlement on as many issues as possible.

You can settle some or all of your divorce claims in mediation. Whatever is agreed to will be reduced to a written agreement that will bind both parties. The judge will review the agreement and, if he or she approves it, enter a consent decree to formalize the agreement and officially terminate the marriage. Any issues not settled in mediation will be tried.

What are the benefits of divorce mediation?

There are numerous reasons to consider mediation instead of going to court. For example:

  • Control. Instead of a judge deciding the outcome of the divorce, spouses get to determine their own divorce terms (with few restrictions).
  • Personal knowledge. Spouses always know more about their marriage than a judge ever will, which means they are best suited to reach a mutually agreeable resolution.
  • Creativity. As mentioned above, with the help of a mediator you can customize the terms of your divorce that a judge likely would not order if it went to trial.
  • Confidentiality. Mediations are generally confidential, meaning if mediation fails and a trial is necessary a spouse cannot (with very few exceptions) bring up discussions and offers to settle.
  • Privacy. Mediation can avoid a public and potentially embarrassing trial while protecting the privacy of the spouses and their children.
  • Saving time, money, and stress. Mediation typically takes much less time and costs less than going to court, and usually takes place in the more relaxed setting of a lawyer’s office.
  • Positive communication. A successful mediation makes future communication with your soon-to-be ex-spouse easier, which could be important if you have children together.

How Can I Get Started With My Mediation?

The first step in mediating your divorce should be to retain an experienced attorney. Your lawyer will represent you during mediation, advance your position to the mediator to help facilitate settlement discussions, and explain the legal consequences of potential settlements. Your attorney will also review the written agreement that is reached at the conclusion of mediation while addressing any questions or concerns you have. To get started with your Phoenix divorce mediation, call Cohen Family Law today.