If you're getting divorced and you and your spouse are both agreeable to the separation, you may want to use mediation to come to agreements and resolve any/all issues. Mediation gives the two of you the option to sit down with a neutral, third-party to work out the details of your divorce yourselves. The mediator is there to help you reach a compromise when the two of you find a point you don't agree on.
If you'd rather not go through a traditional divorce with court dates and other proceedings - mediation may be the best option. In fact, it can be the ideal solution for you and your spouse if you agree to an uncontested divorce. It's peaceful, fair, and cost-effective for those who are on a budget. Unlike a traditional divorce, there's usually no "winner" or "loser" in mediation. Instead, you both walk away with an agreement you've worked to create, can accept and find fair.
WHAT ISSUES DOES MEDIATION RESOLVE?
Mediation can actually resolve any issue that you and your spouse bring to the table regarding your divorce. In general, though, mediation is likely to focus on four different areas.
PARENTING AND CUSTODY
If you have children, one of the most significant decisions you and your ex will have to make is legal custody. There are two aspects to discuss here:
- How will major decisions for your children be made; and,
- How will the two of you share time with them.
Ultimately, you want to do what's best for your child. Going through mediation can help you, and your spouse, look beyond what you want to see what will be best for your family. In litigation, children can often become a "prize" that both sides are trying to win. In mediation, that's not the case as the process is more focused on doing what's right for your children.
Another benefit of mediating custody and placement is that you and your spouse can reach agreements that the Court could not (or would not) put in place on its own. For example, you might decide to celebrate your child's birthday together each year or to implement a specific plan for how future disputes will be resolved.
SHARING EXPENSES AND CHILD SUPPORT
With the question of placement, also comes the question of child support. If you're splitting placement equally and have similar incomes, you and your spouse may decide that neither of you needs to pay support. On the other hand, if one of you doesn't work, or makes much less, you may come to the conclusion that child support is necessary.
What's nice about mediation over litigation is that the two of you, with the help of your mediator, get to decide how expenses are shared. The court would simply look at the numbers and determine that one parent needs to pay a certain amount of money to the other every month as child support. With mediation, you can actually agree to creative alternatives to help share the cost of raising your children.
DIVISION OF SHARED ASSETS AND LIABILITIES
All of the things you purchased and debts you incurred during your marriage are generally assumed to be marital. This means you and your spouse will have to come to an agreement on how things are going to be divided. In mediation, it's a give-and-take process. You'll likely both have to make compromises, but will both be actively involved in sorting out who gets what.
You'll also divide up your liabilities, which in most cases, includes loans and credit card debts. In court, a judge might split these debts down the middle, requiring each of you to take half. In mediation, you can decide who takes on what debt and more time can be allocated to assessing and allocating who will pay what.
Finally, mediation can help you and your spouse come to a maintenance agreement. Similar to child support, there may be a need (or request) for you to pay your ex a set amount of money every month for a fixed period of time. It could also mean making certain payments on his or her behalf. For example, you might agree to make the last year of payments for your ex's car in lieu of spousal support. No matter what kind of agreement you come to, mediation often results in solutions you both feel better about and more comfortable with.
DIVORCE IS A NEGOTIATION PROCESS
Divorce is always about give-and-take, but in mediation, you have much more control over the negotiation process and can be more-creative. In mediation, you and your spouse are able to work through any disagreements you may have so that you not only get at least some of the things you really want, you will feel more empowered by the process. Mediation is all about removing the idea of a winner and a loser from the divorce process and making it more about an amicable split.