Divorce Mediation Guide
Written by Judy Morse

Divorce Mediation Guide

If you are considering using mediation as a way to resolve your divorce, you will want to read this post to help you decide.

Mediation is a popular way to negotiate a settlement in a divorce case. In divorce mediation, you and your spouse, and lawyers for each of you if you are represented, hire a neutral third party, known as a mediator. They meet with you and resolve issues in your divorce. The mediator does not make decisions but serves to help create a conversation around settlement as you and your spouse work out a resolution.

Benefits Of Divorce Mediation

  • Mediation can give you a resolution based on ideas of what is fair in your situation, rather than having a solution imposed upon by impersonal and rigid legal principles.
  • Mediation is confidential, with no public record made of the content.
  • Mediation is much less expensive than a series of hearings or a court trial.
  • Most mediations end in a settlement for your divorce enabling you to move on with your life.
  • The mediation process can improve communication between the two parties helping to prevent future turmoil.
  • You and your spouse — not the court — can control the process you both go through.
  • You can still have a lawyer give you legal advice if you want to do that.

Other Divorce Mediation Considerations

Mediation is an option most couples should thoroughly investigate. Before moving forward, you may wish to consider the following:

  • If there is a history of domestic violence, think carefully about mediation before you want to participate. Some victims of domestic violence and abuse report that to meet on a level playing field is very empowering to them.
  • Some people think that divorce mediation creates a risk of repeating destructive relationship dynamics.
  • If one person wishes to delay proceedings, they can do so by stalling the mediation process to avoid paying support.
  • If you need decisions to be made early in the divorce process, you will probably have more success using the court process.
  • You can, however, use divorce mediation at a later date to resolve other points of issue.

Divorce mediation is successful when both people show up and are willing to compromise and negotiate to a conclusion. Do not dismiss mediation because your spouse sees an issue in a different way to you. Mediation is a powerful divorce process, and if everyone is committed to the process, even the most difficult of issues can be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction.

The Divorce Mediation Process

Every mediator has a unique approach, but most follow a basic framework. There is usually an initial phone call where you will speak with a mediator or their assistant. You can provide background information and go over the outstanding issues. Some mediators want a lot of information, but some prefer to gather the information when everyone is present at the first meeting. One concern that can arise is that the mediation has more information from one person than the other. Remember: You make decisions, not the mediator. If they have an earful from the other person, then you’ll have your chance to respond.

The mediation will take place in a setting that will be more comfortable than the court. At the first meeting, the mediator will explain the process. You may meet together or separately, so the mediator can gather your views in a private setting. That may help to avoid creating more conflict. The mediator will also take care of agreements. One agreement to expect is that you will keep the process confidential. You will likely agree in writing that the mediator cannot disclose information about you in a court proceeding. A mediator will also try to develop a rapport between you and your spouse.

A Note About the Collaborative Divorce Process

Collaborative divorce (also known as collaborative practice and collaborative law) is similar to mediation in many ways. If successful, you can avoid a court battle. However, there are key differences between traditional mediation and collaborative divorce.

  • With collaborative law, you each hire your own collaborative attorney who will assist and advise in reaching a divorce settlement.
  • You first meet with your attorney. Then both spouses and attorneys meet together at scheduled meetings. You’ll know each meeting before it happens. You will probably even know the date you’ll sign divorce papers!
  • You are only in a collaborative law case after you sign a written agreement.
  • Collaborative process uses other professionals, like neutral financial experts or mental health experts who can help contain conflict and promote communication. They will sign the written collaborative law agreement you had to sign.
  • Usually, both spouses and attorneys sign an agreement keeping the attorneys from ever resorting to court in the case of a disagreement. If either client goes to court, the lawyers may have to withdraw.

You will have to file papers with a court to get legally divorced. Once an agreement is made on all outstanding issues, the legal part of the divorce is streamlined. If your case stays in a collaborative process to a resolution, it will not require contentious court hearings and a trial.

The disadvantage of collaborative law is that if no resolution is reached, the court is a risk – but with different lawyers. The advantage is that you are invested in a solution. Starting over can be costly.

Lawyers In Divorce Mediation

If you have an attorney, should they attend mediation with you? Mediation may include only the parties and the mediator. Mediation can be inexpensive, ensure a level playing field, and give rise to settlements. If you need a lawyer at mediation, then bring your attorney. If the other side has a lawyer, you will want legal advice before participating in mediation. If you attend mediation alone but feel tongue-tied or less empowered, your lawyer may help the process.

Getting Started

Once the mediator has explained the basics, both sides usually identify the issues where there are disputes. The mediator will then likely ask some questions to each of you for clarification.

Working Towards An Agreement

The mediator may suggest you address simple issues first to set a foundation for future agreements. This encourages compromise and establishes trust.

Negotiating is not always a linear process. At times you may start at what you feel is the conclusion, only to back up and gather more information. The mediator will help you brainstorm options and work toward solutions. The mediator will help both sides express positions and opinions. Mediation can help “find your voice.” The mediator will also assist you both in really listening. This can help increase the chance of resolution.

The two most important things to consider in reaching a successful outcome at mediation are:

  • To listen and comprehend the point of view of the other side.
  • To be open to compromise.

You do not have to agree with the position of your spouse to understand it. But once you do understand the other person’s position and concerns, you’ll be a part of the solution. You will develop ideas regarding how to resolve those issues. This should encourage your spouse to take a similar approach.

You cannot just lay out all your ideas and expect your spouse to agree. The art of compromise involves being open to multiple solutions. A good compromise takes into account the position of both parties. Your spouse’s proposals, ideas, and solutions could be valid. Try to be patient as proposals develop more details that could be suitable for you both.

Completing The Agreement

When you are done negotiating, and you have reached a solution, you will want to reduce your agreement to writing. Your mediator or one of the lawyers can draft the agreement, then the legal documents. These documents will include a plan for parenting or a schedule for parenting. The documents will accompany the rest of your divorce documents and become part of your divorce judgment. This means the court can enforce agreements. The Court will need to step in if one of you fails to keep the terms of the agreement, as stated in the documents.

Finding A Divorce Mediator

If you live in Arizona, Best Legal Choices professionals can help with divorce mediation! Many of the independent professionals you’ll see at our site are experienced mediators. There are divorce mediators who are also trained collaboratively across the Phoenix Valley including Phoenix, Scottsdale, Mesa, Chandler, & Glendale. Don’t live in Arizona? Your attorney will be able to refer you to local mediators, or you can locate one by yourself. Try to find recommendations for a mediator from people you trust. You can ask financial advisors, lawyers, spiritual advisors, therapists, or friends who have gone through a divorce. Here are some other places you can try:

  • Try the Arizona State Bar website, or a bar association in an Arizona city.
  • Your local church or religious figure may suggest an appropriate mediator for your case.
  • Your case may be appropriate for low-cost community mediation programs so reach out to a local community mediation center.
  • Call your local legal aid office.
  • Check the Internet: There are plenty of divorce directories online, and mediator referrals abound on the internet. To start with, check out: www.mediate.com and www.divorcenet.com.
  • Contact family law or national mediation organizations, the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (www.afccnet.org), and the American Arbitration Association (www.adr.org) and the Association for Conflict Resolution. (www.acrnet.org)

Only work with a mediator whose experience matches your situation. Seek out a mediator who has experience in family courts, whether as a lawyer or testifying expert. Those experts will know how a judge will view your situation, which gives you a foundation for decisions. Once you have assembled a list of names, contact the mediators. Learn their fees, procedure and avoid discussing specific details with them. This way, the other side can’t claim that your choice is biased!

Speak with Our Divorce Mediators In Arizona Today!

While the divorce mediation process is not for everyone, mediation can save you money, stress, and hassle. Speak with a divorce mediator to find out if divorce mediation is right for your family. BestLegalChoices.com professionals are a great place to begin searching for the right divorce mediator for you.