At some point during the course of your divorce, you will likely want to consider whether there is a better way to resolve the issues between you and your spouse without going to trial. In the beginning there may be a lot of conflict between you and your spouse. You may feel the need to “win” and therefore treat every issue, every motion, every proceeding in your matter as an attempt to show your spouse that your position is correct. Marlene Pontrelli and Robert Schwartz, of Dickinson Wright, look at the details.
Perhaps you and your spouse are parting ways amicably. Although you are in disagreement about how your divorce should be settled, you are clear that you want the process to be respectful and without hostility. You may prefer to spend your hard-earned money on your children’s college education than legal fees.
In either case, going to trial and having a judge make all of the decisions in your divorce is not a forgone conclusion. In fact, most divorce cases settle without the need for a trial. Mediation is the process by which a neutral third party helps the parties reach agreement on disputed issues.
A mediator cannot give legal advice. Rather, the mediator’s job is to help you and your spouse reach agreement on all the issues. Depending on the issues in your case, this includes resolving issues concerning division of property, spousal maintenance, child support, parenting time and legal decision making.
Once an agreement is reached, your agreement will be place in the proper form and submitted to the Court as part of a Consent Decree for Dissolution of Marriage. The Court will then sign the Consent Decree as an order of the court in order to dissolve the marriage.
If your case does not settle during mediation, what is said in mediation and the offers exchanged in mediation are confidential. Accordingly, if your spouse makes an offer in mediation that is not accepted, you may not admit that offer in court to show that your spouse had previously taken a position different than the position taken at trial. This encourages both parties to be free to talk openly with the mediator without fear that the information conveyed will be used against you later in court.
Resolving your divorce through a mediated settlement has many advantages. You can achieve a mutually satisfying agreement, a known outcome, little risk of appeal, and often enjoy significantly lower legal fees. Despite the circumstances which led to the end of your marriage, it might be possible for your divorce to conclude peacefully.