The divorce process is rarely stress-free, but there are ways to work around that.
When couples decide to divorce, they can choose from among three options to part ways. They can go for an uncontested divorce if both parties agree to all the terms and conditions of the separation. If, however, they do not see eye to eye on crucial matters such as child custody and spousal support, they can turn to either mediation or litigation.
The litigation process requires both parties to have an attorney who presents their arguments to work out an agreement. This is done either through trial or settlement.
Mediation, on the other hand, involves one lawyer, a mediator, who works with both divorcing parties to arrive at an agreement without interference from other attorneys. The mediator will also complete the documentation filed jointly by both parties to end their matrimonial ties.
How Does Mediation Work?
A mediation meeting is held at a neutral place/room, which can include the mediator’s office or any other mutually-agreeable private establishment. Whenever necessary, the initial mediation may be carried forward via telephonic discussions between the mediator and the parties involved. Typically, mediators conduct face-to-face negotiations or facilitate co-mediations (where two or more mediators work with a family in dispute) in potentially confrontational situations.
Both the parties are required to be present for the mediation along with their respective attorneys (if represented), the mediator, and others as decided beforehand. When it comes to community mediations, however, a larger number of people may gather. Co-mediators might also be present.
An experienced St. Louis divorce mediation attorney will guide you through the following steps that are followed during a mediation:
- Introduction and Opening Remarks
The mediator begins by introducing both parties. The venue chosen for the proceedings is required to be controlled so neither party feels intimidated. If children accompany a parent, they are asked to wait outside.
The mediator then makes an opening statement, which clarifies the stand of the parties involved and the nonalignment of the mediator. If the case details have already been submitted, the mediator acknowledges this and may express the case-related issues that concern him/her most. The mediation guidelines are reviewed, following which the mediator outlines the issues in the case.
The mediator’s opening statement will lay out the rules to be followed throughout the mediation so it proceeds smoothly. The mediator will also state that if lawyers are present, they may partake in the discussion, but the parties should share their account themselves without interrupting each other and with respect.
- Statement of Problems
After making the opening statement, the mediator asks each party to present their matter clearly. The party that requested the mediation most likely goes first. The statement of the problem allows the parties to structure the issues in their mind and enables the mediator to gauge the emotional state of each party.
If any party’s attorney makes the initial statement, the mediator will ask the party to make a statement as well. This is not necessarily done to find out who is saying the truth but is a means to help solve the issues involved.
- Collection of Facts
The mediator asks open-ended questions to further gauge the emotional responses of each party. He/she may even repeat the key considerations to the parties, and also summarize them.
- Identification of Problem
At this stage, the mediator tries to figure out the goals common to both parties. He/she will consider the issues that need to be settled, while also prioritizing them.
- Negotiations and Generation of Options
Generating options may entail working in groups and developing potential scenarios. The mediator may put a proposal on the table while both parties modify it. The most commonly used method, however, is a caucus.
Once the parties start negotiating to arrive at a settlement, the mediator conducts a brainstorming session to explore the possible solutions. This helps the parties come to a final agreement, which resolves the conflict and sets the ball rolling for future ties.
If required, the mediator may conduct private sessions to facilitate the negotiations. This caucus session is confidential and helps the parties find solutions that may be mutually agreeable.
The parties can also consider alternative solutions to resolve their issues without being obligated to offer resolutions as concessions.
- Agreement Writing
Once the settlement is agreed upon, its terms are documented. In the absence of legal counsel, the parties may get the document reviewed and signed by the council at a later date.
Are There Any Penalties for Not Reaching a Settlement through Mediation?
No, there are no penalties. In states where mediation is ordered by the court, penalties may be levied on any party that fails to attend the mediation session.
In cases where parties do not reach a settlement, the matter may reach an administrative agency or court of competent jurisdiction. Usually, the recommendation made by the mediator is the only report of unsuccessful mediation. This may be sent to court for further processing.
The mediation process may last hours or can take weeks or even months to resolve, depending on the complexity of the case. Sometimes, the resolutions are a win-win for both parties. At other times, the solutions are just about acceptable to one or both parties. However, these are better alternatives to lengthy and bitter court battles.
Mediation has several advantages, chief among which is reduced stress and conflict that both the involved parties may experience during the divorce process. When a marriage ends, it is only natural that emotions will reign supreme, which may cause issues in reaching settlements, leading to an antagonistic split. Intense divorce battles can have a lasting impact on children, which is why they should be shielded from it to the greatest extent possible. Mediation can work especially well in such cases. Hopefully, the above information will help you understand how this process plays out. If you and your spouse are heading for a split and want to go about it amicably, do consider mediation as an alternative dispute resolution measure.
Our St. Louis Divorce Mediation Attorneys Can Settle Your Divorce