Mediation is the most popular and typically most effective form of alternative dispute resolution for Oklahoma divorce cases. This process allows a divorcing couple to negotiate the terms of their divorce privately without the need for an expensive and stressful court battle. If you plan to divorce soon in Oklahoma, it’s vital to consult an experienced divorce lawyer as quickly as possible. Most modern divorce attorneys strongly encourage their clients to take full advantage of divorce mediation whenever possible, and you should expect the same encouragement from your attorney.

There are six main steps to mediation, and an experienced attorney will help you prepare for and navigate each phase of your divorce case.

One: Opening Statement From the Mediator

The mediation process will begin with a meeting of the divorcing parties, their respective attorneys, and their chosen mediator. The mediator will introduce everyone and essentially set the tone for the forthcoming negotiations. The mediator will help them prepare for the process and lay out the basic rules. This opening statement will also establish each party’s rights and responsibilities during mediation, such as their expectations for scheduling sessions and communication between sessions.

Mediation typically begins with this type of meeting, but each phase of discussion will also start with an opening statement from the mediator. For example, suppose a session focuses on property division. In that case, the mediator will lay out the structure of the session and remind each of the parties of their rights and responsibilities for this aspect of the divorce negotiation to encourage a civil and productive discussion.

Two: Opening Statements From the Divorcing Parties

After the mediator’s opening statement, each of the divorcing parties will have the opportunity to provide their own opening remarks. You may choose to deliver your opening remarks personally or have your attorney handle your opening statement on your behalf. Each mediation session typically begins with both divorcing spouses providing one another with their expectations and describing their point of view of each facet of the divorce.

When it is your turn to deliver an opening statement for a mediation session, the other party cannot interrupt. You can propose a potential resolution to the issue at hand if you wish, or you can outline your interpretation of the possible consequences of the dispute in question.

Three: Joint Discussion

Once both parties have delivered their opening remarks, they will know where each other stands on the issue in question. For example, if the mediation session focuses on alimony, the spouse expecting to receive alimony will make clear their expectations for the amount and timing of payments, and the other spouse expecting to pay alimony will deliver their own remarks regarding what they believe to be fair payment terms. Once they have both delivered their opening statements on the issue, either personally or through their attorneys, they will have the opportunity to discuss the particulars of the matter through joint discussion.

This tends to be the most delicate phase of mediation, especially when there is strong emotional tension between them. This phase does not exactly require direct negotiation between the parties and allows the mediator to evaluate the parties’ agreeableness.

Four: Private Discussions With the Mediator

Once joint discussion of the issue at hand concludes, the mediator will then provide an opportunity for each party to privately caucus with the mediator one at a time. These private discussions take place in separate rooms. The mediator will go back and forth between the two parties to discuss the strengths, potential drawbacks, and legal implications of the suggested terms. The mediator will also facilitate the exchange of offers between the parties at this time. These private caucuses with the mediator tend to form the bulk of mediation.

Five: Joint Negotiations

After private discussions, the parties should be close to a resolution to the issue at hand. The next phase of mediation involves direct negotiation between the two parties. During private discussions with the mediator, the two parties likely started the negotiation process, and this phase focuses on ironing out the finer details of the issue if necessary. In most cases, the mediator will not bring the parties back together for direct negotiations unless the situation requires it or if the allotted time for the mediation session is nearing its end for the day.

Six: Closing Proceedings

The final phase of mediation requires the parties to reconvene and sign off on their negotiated resolution. The mediator will draft the main provisions of the agreement in writing and require signatures from both parties. If the mediator believes the situation requires further sessions, they will typically take this time to schedule the couple’s next appointment at the mediator’s office.

The mediation process is generally straightforward, and mediation offers virtually anyone the best chance of reaching the most agreeable resolution possible to their divorce case.  However, it is still essential to have trustworthy legal counsel on your side as you begin the mediation process. If you plan to mediate your divorce, consult an experienced Oklahoma divorce attorney as soon as possible.