Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Truth About Divorce Mediation

Mediation is a beneficial process in which a third, neutral party helps couples settle the issues and terms of their divorce without the need for lengthy and expensive litigation in court. Mediators are often attorneys by profession, although social workers, counselors, and even accountants may serve as a mediator provided they have the required training and knowledge.

A divorce mediator typically wears many hats and is able to deftly tackle a multitude of tasks, such as explaining the various divorce and custody laws, facilitating discussions, and redirecting disagreements to focus on reaching an acceptable agreement. Mediators also gather and prepare important documents, filing them with the court when applicable.

The 6 Steps to Divorce Mediation

The Introductory Remarks: The divorce mediation process begins with the mediator making opening remarks which outline the expected roles of both parties, defines the protocol to be followed, and gives an estimated time frame for the mediation. If each party has their attorney present, the mediator will usually set forth guidelines such as that the lawyers are free to confer, but each spouse must speak for themselves. The mediator will also speak briefly about the process of mediation and any applicable laws in the area.

Statements by Both Parties: Both parties now have the opportunity to speak uninterrupted to make their side of the story known, and in most cases, the spouse who initiated the mediation will proceed first. If the attorneys make opening statements, the mediator will request that the clients each also make one as well. During this step of the process, the couple isn't necessarily expected to give a laundry list of facts, but rather is used as a way of gauging both of their emotional states and frames of mind.

The Gathering of Information: This next step of mediation is used to expand on the opening statements and allows the mediator to ask open-ended questions that are designed to facilitate the process. Mediators often use this time to summarize, repeating back the main points in order to ensure both clients are in agreeance thus far.

Identifying Problem Areas: This next portion of mediation may actually already have been accomplished during the previous steps, also, the mediator will also use this time to decide which issues should be settled first, and which are better left for last.

Bargaining and Exploring Options: Different mediators may have varying styles of conducting this extremely integral step of the divorce mediation process. Some of the methods used may include developing plausible options, exploring hypothetical situations and proposals, and allowing the couple to each take turns being heard.

Reaching an Agreement: After the key aspects of the divorce are resolved, or nearing that point, a final "brainstorming" session is conducted to iron out any extraneous details, ideally leading to reaching the final agreements on every single issue.

According to the American Arbitration Association, over 85% of all divorces handled using mediation were able to reach a settlement, even when previous attempts through litigation had been unsuccessful. With such high success rates and the ability to save substantial amounts of money for both parties, it makes perfect sense for all couples facing divorce, regardless of the complexity of the issues at hand, to thoroughly explore their options with mediation.

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