For couples who have decided to dissolve their marriage but prefer to do so without the need for a court-involved divorce, mediation may serve as a smart alternative to the traditional divorce process. Knowing what to anticipate during mediation can help someone get a strong start and may ease some of the anxiety of an otherwise stressful life event.
Who Does Mediation Involve?
Mediation involves the couple, a neutral mediator, and various other support individuals if desired. The mediator does not make decisions as a judge would in a traditional divorce. An effective mediator will, however, assist the participants in exploring options as well as the impact of any decisions to help them come to the most optimal agreements.
It is vital a couple understands when going into mediation that they need to enter into the process willing to work together in order to arrive at decisions.
How Does the Mediation Process Work?
The mediation process typically includes an initial session or sessions that serve as an introduction and consist of background work to gather information. The participants then move into defining goals, negotiations, and finally coming to a conclusion with a settlement.
The length of the mediation process can vary and can consist of one (although very rare) session to several sessions. Generally, mediation sessions will take place in a meeting room, conference room, or mediator’s office.
During early sessions, all factual information will be collected and all paperwork attended to by the participants. The mediator will work with the couple to identify concerns and issues to address and to discover where any agreement already exists. As the mediation progresses, each side will have the opportunity to present his or her views. The mediator may possibly meet with the parties separately as well.
Still a Divorce
Couples who opt for mediation can address any and all issues of divorce, just as in a traditional divorce. These can range from financial considerations including support and alimony, property and debt distribution, and custody and child issues. Mediation allows for dialogue for the parties to achieve a mutually agreeable solution. Concerning child custody, it can be great for deciding what kind of schedule will meet the needs of each person in the family and address individual concerns.
Mediation also can be used for small, secondary disputes. Examples of this type of use for mediation can range from deciding how to arrange a holiday schedule for the children to how to handle a certain investment account. Both parties need to keep in mind, however, that to achieve optimal results compromise and concession is going to be necessary.
The Final Result
When the individuals and mediator have explored options and narrowed down solutions to workable outcomes, they will craft a final agreement and put a settlement into writing. At that point, it is advisable to have an attorney review the agreement.
While mediation is a wonderful option for many divorcing couples, there is always the possibility that mediation isn’t the right choice. It is important to understand that even best efforts may not result in an agreement. Mediation results can be challenged, and if it is unsuccessful, the couple must begin the process again or choose another option.
Mediation can be a preferred and efficient way to sever a marriage, but a couple must be prepared to engage fully in the process.
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.
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