When you want to get a divorce in the state of Washington but can’t agree to the terms with your spouse, mediation is often the first step toward resolving your issues. Having a neutral third party to guide you both through the process of reaching an agreement comes with many benefits, including saving time and money. There are instances, however, when mediation is not always the best solution, such as when drug or alcohol abuse is involved. Here’s what you should know about the mediation process and how substance abuse issues can affect your divorce.
Getting Started With Divorce Mediation in Washington
Mediation isn’t required by law in the state of Washington. However, many localities, including King County, may have rules that require some form of “alternative dispute resolution” (ADR) if your divorce is contested, which in many cases means that the court orders you and your spouse into mediation before trying other methods of dispute resolution.
When you agree to mediation (or are ordered by the court), you’re agreeing to meet with someone who isn’t involved with your divorce or life affairs. The best mediators are typically professionals, and many have either practiced law as an attorney or may be retired judges.
The mediator will act as a go-between with you and your spouse as you each discuss the terms and conditions that you wish for your divorce. Frequently, mediators will seat you each in separate rooms to ensure that each spouse is able to speak freely to the mediator without causing additional resentment or ill-will. You’ll be able to discuss with the mediator what your wishes are and how you would like the divorce to go, which may include the way your marital assets will be divided (Washington is a community property state), child support payments, a parenting plan that details custody, visitation rights, and alimony or spousal support payments.
Your mediator will talk to you and your spouse separately over the course of the session, working to find a compromise that you both find acceptable. A mediation session may be scheduled for a full eight hours, so don’t feel the urge to rush into an agreement. It’s important that you take your time and think things through before you agree to a settlement.
When Divorce Mediation Isn’t the Answer
Drug or alcohol use is a factor in many divorces in Washington, and a substance abuse problem can make it difficult or even impossible to have a successful mediation. In order for mediation to have a chance at success, both spouses must be able to negotiate with one another clearly, fairly, and at least relatively amicably.
Sobriety is absolutely essential to the mediation process. Showing up to an appointment such as mediation or a court appearance while intoxicated generally precludes the ability to think clearly or otherwise apply logic and reasoning skills. Addictions may also alter the priorities of a spouse as well as cloud his thinking even when not actively intoxicated, making mediation impossible. In situations like this, going through the full process of a court divorce is often recommended by divorce experts.
Counseling for both spouses, as well as for any children that are involved in the relationship, may also be beneficial. Divorce is hard enough, and drug and alcohol issues only stand to make things more difficult. The help of professionals who are trained in substance abuse problems are likely to offer psychological benefits to everyone involved.
Get Help With Your Divorce
Whether mediation is the answer to your divorce issues or not, having a divorce attorney by your side can help you be sure that your legal rights are protected. Your attorney will be there for every step of the process, so you and your family can focus on starting your new life.
The Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny offers decades of divorce and family law experience, and we would like to help your family, as well. To arrange a private consultation with an experienced legal professional here in our Bellevue office, please call us, or use the contact form on this page to send an email now.