If you are thinking about divorce, you might be concerned about facing a long drawn out litigation process. Everyone has heard nightmare stories of couples that start out with the desire to part amicably but wind up in a hostile and emotional courtroom battle over property, child support and custody issues.
This caricature of a divorce proceeding does hold a grain of truth. Family court proceedings are emotionally draining and essentially combative on some level. There is a way to avoid all this courtroom drama associated with divorce. It is called alternative dispute resolution.
What is mediation?
Mediation, also known as, alternative dispute resolution, brings both parties of the dispute behind closed doors with a mediator. The goal is the help the two parties reach a settlement without going to court. In Florida, mediation is required before proceeding to court. The hope is that couples can resolve their differences on their own without the need for a trial.
What happens during mediation?
Mediation is an informal process of negotiation. The parties start by exchanging discovery information. Each side can then come to the table ready to negotiate on key issues. Both parties meet privately with a mediator to resolve any differences and reach a settlement that both parties can live with. The mediation focuses on negotiating key issues in such a way that an agreement can be reached. Any issues can be negotiated from child custody to an equitable distribution of resources. Mediation is a guided process where the couple works together. Couples can part peacefully and avoid a conflicted trial.
The Benefits of Mediation
Mediation avoids an emotion trial. Because trials are often combative, they are much more emotional than alternative dispute resolution. Mediation is designed to promote a peaceful resolution to a marriage.
Trials are also expensive. Mediation costs much less than going to court.
Mediation is private and confidential. No one will ever know the details of the process. If your divorce goes to trial, the intimate details of your life will be on public record for anyone to access.
Litigation can be a long process. There are so many divorce cases that it may take a good bit of time to even get a court date. Alternative dispute resolution can finalize your divorce much quicker. Then you and your ex can get on with your lives.
Mediation is better for families. This process seeks to do what is best for the children involved. Court battles can turn children into leverage and play them as pawns. Mediation allows you to maintain positive relationships with your children. You and your ex will determine the best arrangements for custody and child support.
Mediation keeps you in the driver's seat. In the end, both parties agree to the settlement. If your divorce goes to court, the judge will have the final say. He may decide important issues in your favor but he may not. If you do not like what the judge decides, you have very little recourse to change things. Mediation keeps you in the driver's seat.
The Role of the Mediator
Alternative dispute resolution is lead by a mediator. This mediator is a neutral third-party who has no prior knowledge of your case. He can approach your divorce from an unbiased point of view. Unlike a judge, whose job is to make a final ruling that decides all the issues, the mediator's goal is to bring the couple to agreement on a settlement. Thus the mediator will brainstorm creative solutions to areas of conflict. He will slowly nudge both parties closer to each other. The final settlement must be approved by both parties.
The mediator is there to help the process run smoothly. He cannot offer any legal advice or discuss whether a particular settlement is in your best interests. You will not get any advice on what things are best for you to negotiate for and what might be best to concede from the mediator.
The Role of Your Attorney
Even though you may hope to reach a settlement through alternative dispute resolution, you will still need a lawyer to help you. Your attorney can guide you through the process and even help negotiate a settlement. Since the mediator is not there to give legal advice, it is helpful to have an attorney involved who can advise you. Your attorney will protect your legal rights and interests throughout the mediation process. He will make sure that any settlement addresses all relevant issues in your case. In general, your lawyer educates you so that you can negotiate from a strong position. He makes sure that the outcome is in your best interests.
You will want to consult with a lawyer before beginning the mediation process. Mediation is a helpful tool in the divorce process. You can avoid a long trial, reach a settlement that you can live with, put past mistakes behind you and get a fresh start without an emotion ordeal. Our attorneys at Kenny Leigh and Associates can help you through the mediation process.