Law: How to Mediate Your Divorce

by Heather Frances J.D. Google
Mediators can help spouses reach agreement on the toughest issues.

Mediators can help spouses reach agreement on the toughest issues.

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Mediation can help divorcing spouses reach agreement on their divorce terms, thereby avoiding a long, expensive court battle. However, only a court can actually grant the divorce itself. A divorcing couple who wants to use mediation must finalize the divorce in court after reaching agreement on the issues with the help of their mediator.

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Consult a Lawyer

Divorcing spouses have legal rights and their actions throughout the divorce process may have permanent legal implications. Thus, it may be in each spouse's best interests to speak with an attorney before attempting mediation or any other dispute resolution process. Attorneys can attend mediation with you, helping you design ways to make the terms of the divorce work for each of you. Not every case is appropriate for mediation. For example, cases that involve abuse may be better settled in a traditional divorce lawsuit. An attorney can advise you about whether mediation could be a good option for your case.

Find a Mediator

You and your spouse can agree to use anyone as a mediator. Depending on where you live, your court may offer mediation services or you can hire a private attorney or mediator. If there are special issues in your case, such as financial splits or custody, you may want to look for a mediator with experience in those matters. Most private mediators will charge a fee for their services, and you and your spouse must decide how to pay those fees. Commonly, spouses agree to split the cost evenly, but you and your spouse are free to agree to a different type of payment split.

Complete Mediation

The mediation process can be customized to meet your family's needs, but divorce mediation often involves meeting in multiple sessions before an agreement is finalized. Your mediator may structure your conversations in a particular way based on his experience, and he may ask you to prepare a statement of your preferred terms or preferred custody schedule before the mediation. During mediation, your mediator may meet with you and your spouse at the same time, but he may also meet with you separately to discuss your preferences in a confidential setting. Though the process differs for each mediation, your mediator's goal is to help you find areas where you and your spouse can reach agreement without the interference of the court system.

File the Forms

At the conclusion of mediation, mediators can put all of your agreements into a document that can be used to create a marital settlement agreement. It is this marital settlement agreement the court will consider when granting your divorce. If your mediator is also an attorney, he can draft the marital settlement agreement for you and file it with the court, or you can use a legal document provider to help you draft it. A judge will consider your divorce paperwork, which varies by state, along with your marital settlement agreement when deciding whether to grant your divorce. Typically, as long as the agreement is not extremely unfair to either side or against the best interests of the children, the judge will approve its terms and grant a divorce.