Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Divorce Mediation Overview

Simply put, divorce mediation is an alternative to litigating the terms of a divorce in court. Through meetings referred to as caucuses, the couple and the mediator, as well as the couple's attorneys if they so choose, each aspect of the divorce is thoroughly discussed in order to reach an agreement both parties are satisfied with.

Currently, there is no one governing body or entity that rules mediators, however, there are requirements set forth by each state or court that one must meet in order to be legally able to mediate a divorce and be listed in their respective court system.

Mediators are skilled professionals such as attorneys, counselors, social workers, therapists, and accountants or financial advisors. Here are just some of the subjects and issues that divorce mediators are typically trained in:

- Custody and child support issues
- Domestic abuse
- Effective mediating techniques
- Financial concerns, including taxes, pensions, and the division of property and assets
- Other parenting concerns
- Spousal support

The 7 Key Components to Every Successful Divorce Mediation

Choices: One of the primary benefits of divorce mediation is that it offers the chance for exploring different choices, including many that haven't been thought of by either client.

Collaboration: Another benefit of mediation is the fact that it gives both parties the ability to work together to reach a mutual agreement, as opposed to giving the ultimate power to a judge, who would normally make a ruling on the various aspects of the divorce settlement, such as child custody and support issues.

Comfort: Both parties should be comfortable with the mediator and the process of mediation itself, which is completely voluntary in all circumstances. If at any time during the mediation either party wants to stop and instead litigate in court, they always have the option to do so.

Confidentiality: The extent of confidentiality of the mediation should be outlined in detail at the start of the process. Anything discussed in mediation or any written materials related to the process are not admissible in any contested or subsequent court hearings, except for the final signed mediation agreement, unless otherwise agreed to prior to starting the process.

Impartiality: Mediators have a duty and an ethical obligation to be impartial to both parties and are trained at maintaining neutrality and conveying that very fact to their clients. A mediator does not favor one spouse over another, nor do they have any vested interest in the outcome of the divorce other than that the terms are acceptable by both clients. The role of the mediator also extends to ensuring that divorcing couples voluntarily reach an agreement without any coercion from the other party or their respective attorneys.

Information: The sheer value of mediation in terms of the legal advice and information that's gained is often worth the process, even without all of the other benefits. And, while this expert advice is invaluable, it isn't intended to replace the control over the end terms of the divorce, which remains firmly in the hands of both clients, and further counsel by attorneys is always encouraged if necessary.

Satisfaction: Client satisfaction through a viable and mutually agreed upon settlement is the ultimate goal of the divorce mediation process.

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