Couples may be tempted to see mediation as a way to get divorced quickly, cheaply, and without going through a court battle. While mediation is a great divorce method for some spouses, couples should understand exactly what mediation is and what the process demands before going in.
What Mediation Can (and Can't) Do for Divorcing Spouses
Simply put, mediation is an alternative to traditional divorce in which you and your lawyer resolve the disputed issues in your case instead of going to court. During mediation, couples work out the details of their property division, parenting plan (custody and visitation), and financial support with the help of their respective attorneys and a neutral third party called a mediator. In most situations, the more willing both parties are to work out a solution, the faster and less expensive mediation is.
Mediation is a good option for couples who:
- Want to end the marriage. Divorce mediation is sometimes confused with marriage counseling. However, couples in mediation are focused on how to fairly and amicably complete their divorce, while couples in counseling are focused on staying in their relationship. Couples who are not ready to dissolve the marriage should not enter the mediation process but should seek the assistance of a marriage counselor or family therapist.
- Are able to communicate despite differences. The mediation process is often more successful when couples can be honest, share information, and are open to looking for mutually agreeable solutions. Couples who are still able to communicate and cooperate with one another on some level are likely to benefit from mediation.
- Want more control over the outcome. In traditional divorce proceedings, the judge in your case makes the final ruling on all matters pertaining to your separation—including parenting time, child support, spousal maintenance (alimony), and the division of property. In mediation, spouses prefer compromise over conflict, may explore creative solutions, and want to have more input into the decision-making process.
- Have privacy concerns. By law, Washington state divorce mediation sessions are confidential. Each party may openly discuss their concerns, goals, and any personal information without fearing the information will get out. Sensitive information or financial matters that may be made public during a court case remain private in mediation.
- Want to save time. Divorce mediation is usually a much faster process than traditional divorce as the parties have more control over the pace and schedule. The exact length of the mediation process varies depending on the number and complexity of the issues. Spouses that need to make decisions regarding a parenting schedule or couples with more complex finances will face a longer mediation process than those who haven't been married for very long or couples who do not have children. On average, mediation takes a shorter amount of time than a court divorce.
- Agree on some issues. Spouses don't need to be in 100% agreement on every divorce matter to benefit from mediation. In fact, it is common in mediation with attorneys for a spouse to rely on their lawyer to make suggestions on points of contention (such as finessing a parenting plan or determining which assets belong to each spouse).
- Want to save money. Choosing mediation over divorce litigation can save couples time, and therefore money. Because mediation is usually a faster process that does not involve lengthy court appearances and fees, those choosing mediation often spend less money on their divorce.
- Want to minimize future conflicts. Since mediated divorce is a hands-on process where spouses are able to explore their individual needs and interests and find common ground, couples find their agreements are more durable than the outcomes reached after court litigation. After mediation, spouses are less likely to return to court once a final agreement has been reached.
If mediation is the right choice for you, our experienced legal counsel can guide you to a fair settlement during the mediation process. At the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny, we help you through negotiations, perform creative problem-solving, and prepare your divorce paperwork once you reach a final agreement. Contact us today to arrange a private consultation or start reading our free book, 9 Urban Myths About Divorce That Can Hurt You.