When two people are going through a divorce, it is not uncommon for a whirlwind of complications and disagreements to present themselves. Because a couple must make many decisions about dividing assets, spousal support and child support payments, child custody, and more, finding a solution to resolve contention is a must. For couples who don’t want to settle their disputes in court, divorce mediation in Bellevue can be a good option.
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution, which is any method of resolving disputes that fall outside of the official judicial process. In other words, mediation is a way for the parties in the dispute to come to their own agreement, on their own terms, with the help of an impartial third party. A mediator uses a range of techniques to open or improve the dialog, while remaining impartial. The mediator is not a judge, and does not make decisions for you. The two parties come to a decision through informed, detailed discussion. It is preferable to have a lawyer present in mediation during your Washington State divorce, because you and the other party will design and agree to a settlement based on what you know about your own situation, values, goals, and options. Your attorney has the experience to assess your options and advocate for your values and goals.
By definition, a mediator is impartial and doesn't represent the interests of either party. A mediator has no obligation to inform one party about a better possible option, because this may be considered unfair to the other party.
How Mediation Works
During mediation, a neutral third party works with the couple to resolve issues and make important decisions about divorce-related topics. Mediation intends to clarify issues in a safe environment and provides a way to negotiate disagreements and discover a solution together. The mediator does not make decisions regarding the case and only serves as a facilitator to help the parties reach a resolution on their own terms.
Three Major Steps Of The Divorce Mediation Process
Many people are familiar with how divorce litigation works – we’ve all seen movies and read books that contain divorce court drama. However, fewer people are familiar with the process of mediation – while some know that mediation is a way to talk through a divorce agreement with a neutral party, not many know the general steps of the process.
The First Meeting
During the initial consultation, the mediator will usually set the rules for future meetings and the couple will set general goals. Tasks will be assigned for future meetings and the couple will be asked to gather financial information. In most cases, the mediator and the couple will sign a general agreement for moving forward with the mediation process.
A Series of Sessions
Over the following weeks or months, couples will attend appointments with the mediator to discuss division of property, child custody, child visitation, and other aspects of the divorce agreement. The number and frequency of these meeting depend heavily on the two parties involved – how much time they need to gather information, how much time they need to consider options, and how easily it is for the couple to come to agreements. Some meetings may be scheduled between the mediator and an individual.
The Final Agreement
As the mediation sessions continue, the mediator will be noting agreements and drafting a final document outlining the couple’s decisions. A draft of this agreement will be reviewed by both parties, their attorneys, and the mediator before a final signed copy is sent to a judge for official approval.
Benefits of Mediation
There are multiple benefits of mediation. First and foremost, mediation is often much less costly than it is to settle disagreements in court. Another benefit is that unlike a decision made by a judge, you’ll get a greater say in the decisions made during mediation. Mediation often is more flexible, faster than going through court and can allow parents to avoid conflict that might arise in litigation, which can benefit children.
For example, some couples use mediation to resolve disagreements over a parenting plan. The mediator will encourage the parents to focus on the needs of the child, rather than their own personal needs. It can allow both parties to voice their opinions and concerns and work together to arrive at a solution.
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Is Mediation Right For Us?
If you and your spouse are filing for divorce but don’t want to deal with a drawn-out, expensive court battle, then mediation might be the right choice for you. Court battles can get ugly – if you want to settle disputes while staying on positive terms with your spouse, then mediation might be right for you. The latter point can be especially important to parents who do not wish to subject their children to a lengthy and contentious court battle, even if the child will never set foot in the courtroom.
Finding Mediation Services in Bellevue
You can find mediation services in Bellevue through the Washington State Dispute Resolution Centers or DRCs. The DRCs provide mediation services for a wide range of conflicts, divorce included. In King County, Washington, DRC services include the Bellevue Neighborhood Mediation Program, the DRC of King County and the Mediation Clinic, UW School of Law.
It's important to note that mediation does not require the services of an attorney. However, if you are concerned about agreements involving large property or assets or feel more comfortable with an attorney’s approval before agreeing to anything, you may consider pursuing mediation with representation from an attorney.
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Three Secrets to a Successful Settlement in Mediation
Respect: When an atmosphere of mutual respect is established and maintained, both parties are free to make a positive effort toward a mutually beneficial resolution.
Communication: Both parties must learn to listen and to express themselves. In an emotional situation, communication can be difficult. When emotion gets in the way, one only hears the other party's anger or, fails to explain his or her own position properly. Your lawyer can advocate for you, help you to interpret what the other party is saying to you, and help you to express your needs and desires in a way that will be heard and understood by the other party.
Information: You are more likely to achieve your goals for the settlement when you have all of the information. Attorney Molly B. Kenny handles many cases in mediation, and she achieves the outcomes her clients expect because she has a stronger command of the facts in the case, and because her clients are given the information they need to make intelligent decisions.
Mediation is an excellent option for resolving family law disputes, particularly when children are involved. You and your soon-to-be ex may be getting divorced, but you will continue to be the parents of your children. Your future interactions are more likely to go smoothly when the two of you are able to come to terms about this new co-parenting relationship, independently of a judge or a court order.
Commonly Asked Questions & Concerns About Mediation
Up to this point, we’ve discussed divorce mediation in general terms: what it’s like, who it’s best suited for, and how much it might save in costs. However, many people aren’t familiar with exactly what the mediation process will be like on a session-by-session basis. Let’s answer some common questions about the structure of a mediation session.
What is a mediation session like?
You will find that divorce mediation is much less formal than a courtroom divorce. It will take place in a neutral location, like your mediator’s office, and allow you and your spouse to sit together instead of across the room from one another. These collaborative and constructive meetings will be guided by your mediator; however, you will choose the topics of discussion generally.
How long does a mediation session last?
The length of mediation depends heavily on how willing both parties are to work together and communicate with each other. Mediation sessions can last from one to three hours, and many couples need several sessions to work out the concrete details of their separation and divorce.
Who is present during a mediation session?
Other than the mediator, you and your spouse can decide who is present during mediation – one of the biggest benefits of mediation is that you can make it what you want it to be. Commonly, your attorney may be present with you at sessions, while other parties like accountants, child advocates, relatives, and friends may also be present either for information or support.
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When is the mediation session over?
A mediation session ends whenever both parties are ready – or when the mediator feels that you need a break or need to collect more information. The mediation process itself ends when the couple agrees on the details of the divorce in an official settlement called the marital settlement agreement.
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Contact Our Bellevue Divorce Mediation Attorneys
While mediation can be a good way to resolve conflicts, it doesn’t always work. Sometimes going through the process of an in-court divorce hearing is necessary. If you need legal help when it comes to filing your divorce or preparing for court, call the attorneys at the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny.
At the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny, our attorneys know how painful and exhausting going through a divorce can be. We’ll do everything in our power to make your divorce proceedings as simple and as straightforward as possible. If you have questions and concerns, don’t hesitate to call us at your earliest convenience: 425-460-0550. You can also reach us online.