As you find yourself immersed in the minutiae of your divorce, do you find yourself asking “Is there a better way to get through a divorce?” If so, you’re not alone. Many people are in the same boat as you, and many of them feel very strongly, just as you do, that there has to be a better way, a way to avoid the knock-down, drag-out fight that characterizes divorce. A way to put aside anger and negative emotions of the past and reach a lasting agreement for the future that is fair and that works for both of you. The answer very often lies in mediation. Mediation is a method for settling disputes and disagreements (and we can all agree that a divorce certainly fits into that description) that does not necessarily involve lawyers or epic courtroom battles. Divorcing spouses in mediation can use lawyers but very often they do not. Instead, they employ a mediator, usually a retired family law judge, a seasoned attorney, or a dedicated full-time mediator outside of court to help them craft a settlement upon which they can both agree.
The mediation process has many advantages over the “traditional” courtroom proceeding, ranging from simply saving time and money to creating an environment in which the relationship that exists between the spouses can be kept civil and considerate. Indeed, being less damaging to a relationship and ensuring greater overall satisfaction with the final settlement is a huge step towards forgiveness, resolution, and forward movement, free from negative emotions such as resentment, jealousy, and anger. The mediation process is often used to reach an agreement on issues regarding child custody because a mediated result, one that both parents agree upon, is always better than one thrust upon the parents by the court. Mediation of course also works quite well when deciding issues of support payments (both child and spousal support) and property division. Those facing a divorce with more complex issues can also use a mediator. Mediators can advise on the issues to which they are familiar and fill the gaps in their knowledge with help from outside specialists, such as appraisers or accountants.
As they put together a settlement, mediators seek to build trust and cooperation between the spouses. They act with neutrality toward both sides and will not share one spouse’s thoughts with the other unless written permission has been given. Mediators recognize that the settlement process can only work if they are impartial and work toward the best interests of both spouses. In turn, mediators expect both spouses to treat one another with respect and to fully disclose all facts in the case. Mediation cannot work if spouses are disrespectful or secretive in their dealings. Such circumstances do not lend themselves to mediation and probably mean that a couple has no choice but to settle their differences in court.