Divorce mediation refers to an alternative dispute resolution process that is available to couples to settle their differences on specific matters in a divorce. In some cases, the divorcing spouses may decide to try mediation. A judge may also order mediation for the couple in a divorce. It is vital to understand how mediation works before considering or initiating this process.
Role of the Mediator
A divorce mediator is a neutral third party. They will help and facilitate the spouses in reaching a mutually agreeable decision on matters related to residency, child custody, parenting time, division of assets, or other aspects related to divorce or family law issues.
Typically, mediators are attorneys. But they do not act as a legal representative for either party. Also, they do not provide any legal advice to the divorcing spouses during mediation. The mediator helps both parties in identifying the problems, reducing misunderstandings, focusing on priorities, determining areas of compromise, and arriving at mutually agreeable decisions.
The mediation occurs in a relatively informal environment, where the mediator assists the couple in addressing their differences, identifying priorities, and reaching a consensus where possible. Any agreement that the parties reach is based on the parties’ decisions and not those of the mediator.
A mediator does not decide for the parties or force agreements on the divorcing spouses. Rather, they understand the viewpoints of both spouses to try to determine areas of agreement. In mediation proceedings, all points of agreement are based on the spouses’ decisions and not the mediator’s.
How does the Mediation Process Work?
Mediation sessions take place in a safe and informal setting. The discussions that occur during mediation typically remain private. Any statements that the spouses make during mediation are protected by privilege. There are some necessary exclusions, such as matters such as reporting threats of violence. The factual information exchanged during mediation may be provided to a participant’s attorney at the end of the mediation if both spouses are agreeable to the disclosure.
At the outset of the mediation session, the mediator explains the process to both parties. Initial discussions are focused on determining areas in which the spouses have differences. Upon establishing the agenda, the mediator uses their experience and professional skill to encourage meaningful discussions between the participants. The mediator navigates through the issues and helps negotiable mutually acceptable resolutions, if possible.
In the mediation session, the mediator ensures that the participants fully consider the children’s best interest and the consequence of any decision both parties reach pertaining to the children. The mediator may meet with the children and other people if both spouses agree.
The mediator will end the process if they conclude either that continuing the mediation will harm or prejudice a party or impact the children or that the lack of willingness to participate makes a reasonable outcome unlikely.
What Happens if the Participants Agree on Issues?
In divorce mediation, an agreement is not binding on the participants or admissible in court unless it is documented, signed by both spouses and their lawyers, and approved by the court. When the mediation process ends, the mediator provides a written summary of the agreements reached by the participants. Moreover, the mediators will recommend that the participants seek legal help for assistance in the documentation of their mediation agreement.
When is Divorce Mediation Appropriate for Spouses?
While divorce mediation can be an effective process, it is not necessarily the right approach for all divorcing couples. If the spouses are amicable and have some basic agreements but also certain differences to resolve, the mediation process may work well.
Divorce mediation can also be effective in situations of high conflict. Mediators have the experience, skills, and tools to resolve the conflict between both parties, even in acrimonious circumstances. The mediator represents a neutral third-party and works to address disputes without taking sides by facilitating conversations between the participants. They offer equal support to both participants and encourage the spouses to focus on the best path forward for them and their families.
The process of mediation is versatile and adaptable. Spouses can use this format to resolve outstanding differences without the involvement of the judicial system. It can also save costs and emotional stress related to extended court battles. If you believe that mediation may be right for your divorce case, you should speak to your attorney or a professional mediator to learn more.
Consult an Experienced Virginia Divorce Attorney Today
Divorce is perhaps one of the most difficult times in a person’s life. At Olmstead & Olmstead, our compassionate attorneys are committed to fighting for your best interests to make life easier for you and your kids. Our Virginia family law attorneys have in-depth knowledge of divorce, paternity, child custody, modification, and other family legal matters.
To schedule a confidential and free consultation with one of our attorneys, call today at (703) 361-1555.