Does Mediation Mean You Are Divorced?

By Heather Frances J.D.

Mediation can help couples reach agreement on the terms of their divorce, avoiding long court fights and eliminating cost. However, mediation is only one part of the divorce process. Though couples can agree on issues like child custody, property division and alimony with the help of a mediator, they must go to court to finalize their divorce.

Mediators' Role

Mediators are not necessarily attorneys and they do not represent either spouse in the divorce. Instead, mediators help the spouses reach agreement by structuring a conversation between the spouses. Mediators can provide an atmosphere in which spouses can be guided toward their own solutions, and spouses who reach agreement on their divorce's terms typically must formalize those terms in a marital settlement agreement. However, a marital settlement agreement does not divorce the spouses. Instead, the spouses must get a judge to divorce them based on the terms they agreed to in their mediation.

Finalizing Your Divorce

Courts will not dissolve a marriage unless the spouses file the appropriate court paperwork. Typically, this involves one spouse filing a petition for divorce with the marital settlement agreement attached, but some courts allow spouses to file together to make the divorce process faster. After the paperwork has been properly served on the other spouse, the court can set a hearing date. At the hearing, the judge reviews the mediation agreement to ensure both spouses still agree to it and that it is in the best interests of the couple's children. Generally, courts will grant a divorce that incorporates a couple's marital settlement agreement as long as it is not extremely unfair and does not harm the couple's children. Once the court enters a divorce decree, the couple's marriage is dissolved and the terms of their mediated marital settlement agreement become part of the court's order.

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