When ending their marriage, couples tend to encounter several issues that may seem impossible to resolve. This is where a mediator comes into the picture. With the help of a mediator, couples can work towards resolving the most complex child custody, spousal support, asset division, and other kinds of disputes.
Ask any experienced St. Louis divorce mediation attorney about mediation, and you will know that it is one of the most effective dispute resolution techniques. While some divorcing couples work with a mediator out of their own will to amicably resolve their differences, others go through it on the order of the court.
During mediation, both parties work with a trained and unbiased mediator. The mediator is a neutral third-party without favoring any party to help them “win.”
The mediator cannot coerce either party to do anything they do not want to do. If the couple is unable to reach a mutually-agreeable settlement through mediation, they will need to seek a judge’s mandate, which may not please them, but they will have to adhere to it anyway. Mediation can, therefore, prove to be a prudent option.
That said, certain myths have been associated with divorce mediation, which keeps many couples from going down this route. In this post, we will attempt to bust the most prevalent ones.
Let’s dive in.
Myth 1. You Cannot Go through Mediation If You Disagree on Everything
Fact: Participating in divorce mediation does not mean that the couple must agree on everything right from the start. The aim of mediation is to help both parties resolve their divorce issues outside the courtroom. In case of disagreement on any matter, the mediator helps the parties find a common ground to agree upon. Through this, the mediator may enable you to consider options neither party might have ever thought of.
Myth 2. Divorce Turns out Cheaper than Mediation
Fact: Paying a combined attorney’s fees can drill a large hole in the family’s wallet. Add to that the costs of discovery, delay, trials, and innumerable phone calls between lawyers, and you’ll get a depleted bank balance. Mediation involves one primary initiator. Even if you have a detailed agreement and are consulting attorneys, mediation will help you save considerable time and money.
Myth 3. The Mediator Has the Final Say in What’s Fair for Both Parties
Fact: A mediator is not an arbitrator and hence, cannot make decisions on behalf of the divorcing couple. The primary job of a mediator is to help couples arrive at a mutually-agreeable and fair settlement. In some cases, mediators also help couples consider other options by weighing their benefits and drawbacks.
Myth 4. Gender Matters in Mediation
Fact: Men have an upper hand in mediation is a common misconception. Mediators are required to ensure that both women and men have the necessary information and the know-how needed to make sound choices. This is done by helping both parties understand their choices, opportunities, and the implications of their decisions. Each party structures an agreement based on their knowledge and understanding of the situation. This serves as the foundation for both to build a new life.
Myth 5. Attorneys Need Not Attend Mediation
Fact: Just because a couple opts for mediation does not mean they can no longer seek the legal counsel of their attorneys. In fact, couples frequently bring their attorneys along, who review the process and guide them through the filing and hiring stages.
Myth 6. Marital Assets May Be Unfairly Divided in Mediation
Fact: The Division of assets is based on the laws applicable in a particular state. A divorce in St. Louis, for example, will be subject to specific state laws and statutes of limitation of Missouri. The mediator cannot influence the division of assets in any way.
In fact, mediation hands the control over to the couple rather than a judge. Further, property division is among the most expensive parts of a divorce when it comes to attorney fees. If not resolved through mediation, it may continue in court for a few years. It is best to make reasonable compromises and arrive at a decision during mediation to skip avoidable costs and stress, and save time.
Myth 7. Mediation Means Settling for Less
Fact: Many people think that by settling out of court, they will have to settle for less. If you think that going to court will certainly help you derive the maximum amount from your spouse, know that most court judges divide all marital property equally between both parties. Hence, the chances of one party taking everything from the other one are extremely low to none. Mediation may help both parties come to a better solution.
Myth 8. Mediators Pressure You to Save Your Marriage
Fact: Mediators will never force you to do anything you’re uncomfortable with. They are neither therapists nor judges. They are a neutral third party in charge of facilitating healthy discussions. It is, therefore, not a mediator’s job to address the topic of saving your marriage. In fact, he/she will clarify right in the beginning that they do not have any legal authority to make decisions on your behalf and that partaking in the process is entirely voluntary.
Myth 9. The Divorce Process Is Quicker Than Mediation
Fact: While mediation does take time, the process is often less lengthy than the traditional divorce process. In the case of the latter, it can take several months or years for the judge and courtroom to be available for the hearing, and maybe even longer for your case to be heard. With mediation, however, you can set your own meetings and negotiations.
Myth 10. Mediation Is for the Meek
Fact: Contrarily, mediation is for those who prefer to retain control over their divorce-related decisions. When you go to court for a divorce, the judge decides factors such as how to divide your assets and debts or who will be the custodial parent to your children. You may not like being stuck with these decisions.
When you opt for mediation, however, you will keep the control and use it to make all the decisions based on what’s right for your family.
Myth 11. Mediation Is Always the Best Way Forward for Every Divorcing Couple
Fact: Mediation may be suitable for several divorcing couples, but may not be ideal in every case. Mediation works when spouses are willing to clearly communicate what’s important to them. Couples should resort to it only when are ready to behave politely with each other throughout the process. The court avoids mediation in contentious cases though. For example, if the divorce involves a history of domestic violence, both parties may need to hire attorneys to speak for them instead of negotiating on their own.
Shattering myths and embracing facts is crucial to making the most of mediation as an alternate dispute resolution method. It is a process that is conducted behind closed doors with the couple’s privacy and confidentiality preserved. It involves working together and taking steps that are in the best interest of your children’s future. If you and your spouse are headed towards divorce and are having a hard time settling your differences, mediation may be the way forward. Knowing the realities of this process will help you work through all your issues amicably, thereby making the separation less stressful for you, your children, and the rest of your family. Hopefully, the facts presented above will help you see mediation in a clear light and motivate you to give it a try.
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