What is Divorce Mediation?
Divorce Mediation, an Alternative Dispute Resolution tool, falls under the umbrella of Family Law Mediation. Most Divorce matters settle at mediation, helping to avoid the emotional trauma of litigation, and saving a significant amount of time and money, by empowering the parties to come to an agreement.
During the Divorce Mediation process, the parties, and in many circumstances their attorneys, come together and work with a trained mediator, a neutral, third party, whose job it is to bring each party closer to the middle, brainstorm creative and mutually beneficial solutions, and encourage settlement. If the parties are both meeting with only the mediator, and not represented by attorneys, then the process is called a pro se mediation. Experienced mediators can help the parties work through issues on principals, even when emotions are high. As a neutral facilitator, the divorce mediator is not a Judge or attorney for either party, does not give legal advice, and does not take either party’s side. Instead, the mediator is tasked with remaining impartial and helping the parties find common ground or creative solutions.
The Benefits of Divorce Mediation
It’s no secret that a lingering divorce can damage the financial and emotional well-being of the parties, their children, and families. By utilizing Divorce Mediation, the parties can enter into an agreement before any “shots are fired” or to put an end to the “war” that is litigation.
Almost everything discussed in mediation is confidential, so the other party, attorneys and mediator cannot tell the Court what was discussed. By resolving your case in a confidential environment, without trial, the parties can be honest about the facts, circumstances, and goals, without having to compromise legal positions or airing any dirty laundry in a public court room or public court filings.
By agreeing to terms at mediation, the parties have the latitude to customize the Marital Settlement Agreement, Parenting Plan, or other agreement, specific to their family and goals. Instead of waiting for hearings or for the Judge to decide what is right for your family, in Divorce Mediation, you can take control, maintain your privacy, save time, save money, and avoid additional uncertainty and stress.
The Divorce Mediation Process
In most jurisdictions, you can mediate your divorce (or dissolution of marriage) in person, over the phone, or over Zoom or other video chat technology. If your case has already been filed, mediation is often initiated by a Motion requesting that Mediation be ordered by the Judge or by an Order of Referral to Family Mediation. Such an Order should include information about the format, the mediator or mediation program, the mediator’s fee, who is responsible for the fee, and other important details and parameters for the mediation session. Even if you don’t believe a settlement is possible, in most circumstances, you must attend at least one mediation session before proceeding with a contested Trial or a Final Hearing.
In most cases involving attorneys, the parties arrive at mediation having already exchanged discovery, which can include a Financial Affidavit, Mandatory Disclosure, and other discovery or evidence. In other circumstances, the parties share discovery during the mediation session. Financial disclosures are very important in the divorce mediation process because they empower the parties to better understand their financial circumstances and gauge whether a proposed agreement or settlement is fair. If the parties require additional details to come to terms, the Mediation can always be “continued” or rescheduled to continue on another day, to give the parties time to share more evidence.
During mediation, the parties may be together in one room or in separate rooms with the mediator going back and forth between the rooms (or virtual rooms) until an agreement is reached or the session concludes. If you have an attorney representing you at mediation, and you are in separate rooms, you can ask for space from the mediator and privately discuss questions, concerns, or ideas that you do not want to disclose to the other party or with the mediator present. Even when both parties are represented by attorneys, oftentimes the parties themselves will vocalize concerns, express frustrations, and propose solutions to overcome any barriers to settlement. This can be a great opportunity for parties to discuss important issues and concerns in a more constructive setting.
Divorce Mediation with P.E.A.C.E.
Many experienced mediators utilize the “P.E.A.C.E. process” to work through and resolve the issues associated with a Divorce. The P.E.A.C.E. acronym translates to “P” for Parenting (or Parenting Plan), “E” for Equitable Distribution (or Property Division), “A” for Alimony (or Spousal Support), “C” for Child Support, and “E” everything else. “Everything else” may include attorney’s fees, fees for experts, court costs, and other variables unique to the family. By working in this order, the elements that are decided early in the process impact the later items – for example, property division that occurs during (“E”) Equitable Distribution (and potential income from such property) may impact (“A”) alimony, or a time-sharing schedule agreed to during the (“P”) Parenting segment may impact (“C”) child support.
Although the P.E.A.C.E. process provides a great format to settle many cases, it is possible to settle only some issues, or only focus on temporary or urgent/emergency issues, and then either return at a later date or proceed to trial on any remaining issues. Accordingly, Divorce Mediation can end in either an agreement on some or all of the issues, an impasse (no agreement reached), or can be continued to a later date for another session. If the Divorce mediation is successful, the parties execute a mediated settlement agreement reflecting the terms reached at the mediation and then oftentimes proceed to a simple uncontested Final Hearing.
Hiring a Divorce Mediator
Whether you are in the pre-litigation phase or if your Divorce case has already been filed, if you are looking to hire an experienced Divorce Mediator to provide creative solutions to settle your case and maintain or restore the peace, you can obtain more information by calling our office at (954)703-2110 and or by sending an email with your name and contact details to: Mediation@BrowardLegal.com
If you are represented by counsel, you can ask your attorney to recommend one of our Divorce mediators to the Court or the other party’s attorney and contact us for scheduling information.
Consult with a Divorce Attorney before Mediation
Remember, a mediator can’t give legal advice to the parties. So in order to best protect your rights and interests, you should hire an experienced divorce attorney to prepare for and represent you at your mediation. Even if you want to attend mediation without an attorney, you should consider consulting with an attorney to help you determine what your legal rights and responsibilities may be, so you can be better prepared for the mediation session. Consulting with an attorney prior to mediation can also help ensure that your prior case filings, or case record, has the foundation necessary to obtain your ultimate goals and keep you focused on getting the relief you are entitled to.
To speak to an experienced Attorney with Levinson & Capuano, LLC about representation contact Info@BrowardLegal.com or call our office at (954)703-2110.