Perhaps the most difficult decision in divorce is the choice to get one at all, but once that is done, the tough decisions are only beginning. There are ways to ease the transition from life shared as a couple to two individual lives.
There are two ways to carry out a divorce - conventionally through litigation or through the employment or alternative dispute resolution methods. Mediation is one of those methods. Litigation puts the decision-making power right into the court's hands. The court decides the outcome. Mediation, or negotiation, however, allows a couple to decide for themselves how they want their divorce to work. The parties decide the outcome.
Mediation is a negotiation process, working with a neutral mediator, to come to agreements about your divorce. Attorneys can assist in a consulting capacity. It is a non-adversarial approach and an alternative way to resolve disputes outside of court.
The process of mediation can be a beneficial and positive option for dividing assets. It is not uncommon for the division of assets to be a very contentious part of divorce proceedings. It is only normal for each party to be reluctant to part with certain assets and property. While you may be reluctant to try to negotiate with your former partner, leaving the decision to a judge in a courtroom may not serve you well.
On the other hand, utilizing a skilled mediator who can facilitate agreements can help you retain some control in the process because the mediator will not make the decisions but rather aid the parties in coming to decisions and compromises. A good mediator will identify strengths and weaknesses in the parties and determine what skills to focus on to come to resolution of the issues. The mediator also will learn what the contentious issues are and develop a strategy to address them and focus on common goals. When children are involved, mediation can help focus the results on them and their well-being.
Mediation is a helpful process for when a couple has already attempted to come to agreements on their own. It also works well regardless of level of income or amount of assets involved. Mediation provides the tools to divide both small and large property. It allows those involved to wade through their emotions and prioritize what is important to them. Sometimes, the items that are expected to cause the most discord are not the most challenging to decide or couples get hung up on items that were thought to be small but prove to be the most emotional to handle.
Where litigation creates an environment in which attorneys leverage every advantage for their client, mediation allows for thoughtful discussions, and those involved may experience a greater confidence in the process because the decision-making power is in the hands of those affected directly.
Mediation is not only useful for the division of assets and property, it also allows former spouses to create a plan and agreement for issues such as co-parenting, child support, how to handle holidays with children, who pays for what activities, and even religious activity.
With its focus on problem-solving, mediation oftentimes enables couples to maintain an amicable relationship after divorce and allows the individuals to move forward more peacefully. Practically, mediation can be more cost effective and efficient.
Just as no marriage is the same, no dissolution of that marriage is either. Mediation can be a way to avoid a cookie-cutter approach to a divorce and allow for a unique and customized agreement that has a greater chance of satisfying the individuals involved.
At Shafer Law Firm we have several skilled attorneys who can handle any of your needs. Contact us with any questions.
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About the Author: Elizabeth L. Spadafore
Elizabeth was raised in Meadville, PA and was a local small business owner before attending Duquesne University School of Law, where she received her Juris Doctorate degree in 2010. She focuses her practice on family law matters such as divorce, custody and support. Her background as former County Solicitor for Crawford County Children and Youth services, combined with her experience in bankruptcy actions and personal injury actions, allows her to successfully navigate matters that are both highly sensitive and legally complex.