The divorce process is likely to be one of the most challenging experiences of your life, even if you are sure that your marriage should end. Some divorcing spouses struggle with the emotional aspects of their divorces more than the financial and practical issues the process entails, and the opposite is true for others. For most, both sides of the divorce process are challenging, and it can take years to truly recover from the experience, both personally and financially.
One of the best things you and your spouse can do to make the divorce easier for both of you is to consider alternative dispute resolution. Divorce mediation has become the most popular form of alternative dispute resolution throughout the Midwest because it is much faster, more efficient, and allows divorcing spouses more control than typical divorce litigation. However, while mediation is generally an easier alternative to litigation, you must still prepare for it.
Research Your Options for Mediators
Many divorce attorneys offer their services as mediators, and some professional mediators solely provide mediation services. You and your spouse must agree on the mediator before you can begin mediation sessions. It’s vital to choose a mediator who does not hold any conflicts of interest that would favor either you or your spouse.
While you mustn’t waste time selecting your mediator, remember that your spouse may or may not agree to your first or even your second choice. If you are worried about any potential conflicts concerning mediator selection, an excellent way to prevent these issues is to ask your spouse to research their own short list of potential mediators while compiling your own list. Once you both have a few candidates, compare your lists, and see whether the two of you have selected any of the same local mediators. When divorcing couples have difficulty agreeing on much of anything, this is a good method of preventing any disagreements from interfering with the early stages of the mediation process.
Gather Evidence and Documentation
Once you have chosen your mediator, you and your spouse will need time to prepare. Mediation provides an opportunity to privately negotiate your divorce terms in a comfortable, low-pressure atmosphere. While this is a generally more laid-back process than handling a divorce in the courtroom, you still need to prepare for the mediation sessions you face. This means working closely with an attorney to develop your list of ideal divorce terms and the evidence and documentation you will need to substantiate any claims you intend to make during mediation.
Mediation allows you and your spouse the chance to privately negotiate property division, alimony, and other specific aspects of your divorce. There will be some issues that you and your spouse cannot settle through mediation, namely child support and child custody. If you and your spouse have kids, you may draft a parenting plan in mediation that includes mutually agreeable custody and support terms, but a family court judge will need to approve this plan. The court must protect the best interests of any children involved in a divorce case, so a judge will need to review your proposed parenting plan before approving it. As long as your parenting plan is reasonable, you should expect a family court judge to approve it with minimal adjustments or revisions.
Consult Your Attorney About Any Issues
One of the most critical steps in preparation for divorce mediation is hiring the right attorney. Many divorcing individuals make the mistake of believing the mediator can provide them with legal advice during mediation, so there is no need to hire legal representation for this process. This is not true. You cannot expect any legal advice from the mediator; they are there to guide your negotiations and answer questions regarding state divorce statutes. They cannot provide any advice that would be favorable to either of the divorcing spouses.
An experienced Midwest divorce attorney can assess your situation and determine your best possible approach to divorce mediation. You and your spouse may choose to have your respective lawyers attend some or all of your mediation sessions, and the mediation process will likely include discussions between both parties as well as one-on-one sessions with the mediator for both spouses.
If you encounter any unforeseen issues during mediation, your attorney will be your best resource for addressing these problems. Your attorney can assist you with any deep research you will need to complete to solidify your negotiation position in divorce mediation. They may even consult experts about more complex aspects of your divorce case, if necessary.
What Happens If Divorce Mediation Doesn’t Work?
Some divorcing couples are too bitterly opposed to one another to be willing to negotiate when it comes to their divorce terms. Other couples can reach common ground on some aspects of their divorces, but not others. Still, others may struggle to address complex issues regarding property division, spousal support, or preexisting prenuptial contracts.
Problems like these do not necessarily take divorce mediation off the table as an option. If you and your spouse encounter any impasses in your mediation sessions, you can focus on the issues to negotiate and leave the remainder for the litigation process. In some cases, some amount of litigation will be unavoidable. For example, in a high net worth divorce case involving complex investment assets, the divorcing couple may not know how to negotiate property division for this aspect of their marriage and need a formal legal review in court.
How Much Will Divorce Mediation Cost?
One of the most attractive aspects of divorce mediation is that most divorcing couples can handle their divorces for a fraction of the cost of divorce litigation. Mediation is faster, more efficient, and allows the divorcing couple more personal control over the outcome of the divorce. However, both spouses will still need to pay their respective attorneys’ legal fees, and the cost of the mediator’s services will be split 50/50 between the divorcing spouses unless they come to some other arrangement.
Ultimately, the cost of your divorce mediation depends on how long it takes you and your spouse to negotiate every aspect of your divorce case. If the two of you are agreeable and use your time well during each mediation session, the whole process may only take a week or two. One of the most important aspects of divorce mediation is reliable legal counsel. If you believe divorce mediation is the best option for you, consult an experienced Midwest divorce attorney as soon as possible to learn more about how the process will unfold in your divorce case.