Many couples throughout the Midwest are choosing alternative dispute resolution to avoid the prohibitive costs and considerable time investment required for divorce litigation. The most used form of alternative dispute resolution in Midwest divorce cases is mediation, a simplified divorce settlement negotiation process that unfolds under the supervision and guidance of a mediator. If you are preparing to divorce in the Midwest, you should understand how mediation works, the potential benefits it can offer, and what you can expect from your chosen mediator.
What Is a Divorce Mediator?
A divorce mediator is a legal professional who serves as a neutral third party during a divorcing couple’s mediation sessions. Many family law attorneys throughout the Midwest offer both client representation and mediation services. In fact, most divorce mediators you’ll find working throughout the Midwest are either current or former divorce attorneys. These professionals leverage their years of professional experience in family law to settle divorce cases more quickly than litigation allows.
When a couple decides to take advantage of divorce mediation, they must agree on a mediator. Typically, their respective attorneys will offer some suggestions and recommendations. Ultimately, however, the couple must agree on their mediator.
The chosen mediator may not have any conflicts of interest favoring either of the divorcing spouses. For example, if a prospective mediator offers additional legal services beyond divorce mediation and either you or your spouse have retained them in the past for a different legal issue, this could potentially qualify as a conflict of interest. Your divorce mediator will have a tremendous impact on the overall outcome of your divorce, the fairness of your divorce settlement, and your final divorce order. For that reason, it is vital to choose a mediator who is experienced, neutral, and capable of managing the various details of your divorce case effectively.
How Do I Find a Good Divorce Mediator?
The best resource for finding the right divorce mediator for your divorce case is your Midwest divorce attorney. Your legal team will likely have several recommendations for you. Then, you and your spouse can narrow down your options until you choose a mediator suitable to both of you. Your chosen divorce mediator should have a solid professional record of handling divorce cases like yours in your area and a firm understanding of the unique issues in play in your divorce. They should also have the availability to offer consistent meeting times and expedite your divorce as much as possible.
What Will the Divorce Mediator Do?
Once you and your spouse have chosen your mediator, the mediation process begins. You’ll start with an initial meeting with the mediator, you, your spouse, and your respective attorneys. While it is possible to complete divorce mediation without legal counsel, it is always best to have a reliable attorney on your side to guide you through the process and ensure the outcome of your negotiations suits your best interests. During your first meeting with the mediator, they will likely provide an outline of how they intend to handle the case. They may establish a timeline of the issues you and your spouse must negotiate and explain the services they provide.
It is important to remember that the divorce mediator is legally prohibited from offering any legal counsel to either of the divorcing spouses. Their primary job is to guide negotiations and help the divorcing spouses reach a fair and reasonable outcome to their divorce. If either spouse needs direction or legal guidance, they must turn to their respective attorneys. While divorce mediation may seem like the best available option for handling your divorce and saving money on legal fees, it is still essential to have legal counsel you can trust on your side.
During each phase of mediation, the mediator will explain the issue at hand and keep the negotiation focused and productive. The mediator will ensure the agreement the divorcing spouses reach aligns with applicable state laws. They will also provide a general explanation of both spouses’ rights and responsibilities regarding each aspect of their divorce.
What Can’t Be Settled Through Divorce Mediation?
While divorce mediation is almost always a preferable alternative to litigation, there are some limitations to the process. First, divorcing parents cannot resolve child custody or child support through mediation. The family court must ensure any child custody and support agreement suits the children’s best interests. The parents’ divorce mediator can help the couple draft the proposal regarding what they would like their custody agreement to include and present it to a family court judge. However, the judge has the final say concerning the details of the parents’ custody agreement.
Some divorce cases involve complex financial issues, and the divorcing spouses, their respective attorneys, and the divorce mediator may be unable to reach any firm conclusions regarding these matters. This is an example of how mediation can streamline a larger divorce case. The divorcing couple can negotiate as much as they can through mediation before transitioning to litigation to settle the rest of their divorce case. When divorce mediation raises complex financial issues, the divorcing spouses may require a formal review in court to reach a fair and equitable outcome.
Is Divorce Mediation Right for Me?
If you are unsure whether divorce mediation will work for your situation, remember that almost every divorcing couple benefits by taking advantage of mediation. If you believe that you and your spouse cannot agree to anything and mediation would be impossible, it is vital to understand that mediation is more flexible than you might think. It is possible to complete the process without the need for face-to-face negotiations with your soon-to-be ex-spouse. This will take longer than standard mediation, but it remains an option for divorcing couples who want to streamline their divorces but have difficulty managing negotiations.
Finding the right divorce mediator will make a tremendous difference in the outcome of your divorce case. The first step to taking advantage of mediation is finding the right attorney to represent you. Contact an experienced Midwest divorce attorney as soon as possible to learn more about the potential benefits mediation can offer.