In the past, if a couple wanted to get a divorce, they had only one option: hire a divorce lawyer and go to court. However, over the past ten years, mediation (a form of alternative dispute resolution) has become an increasingly popular alternative. Fighting it out in court can be expensive and takes control out of your hands and puts it in the hands of a judge. With mediation, you and your spouse hire a neutral third party, called a mediator, who sits down with you and attempts to resolve the central issues that need to be decided in your divorce. The mediator does not make decisions for you or your spouse. Rather, it is their job to help you come to your own agreement.
Why Try Mediation?
There are many benefits of mediation, including:
- Lower cost than litigation
- You retain more control over both the outcome and the divorce process
- Improved communication between you and your soon to be ex-spouse
- Unlike a trial, mediation records are confidential
- Mediation usually results in a settlement of all issues related to the divorce—including child custody, property division, and the awarding of alimony
- You can still retain a lawyer to give you advice and negotiating tips
Is Mediation Right for Me?
An experienced Pennsylvania divorce lawyer can help you determine what the best course of action is for your divorce. However, for most couples, mediation is worth a shot. If at any point during the process you feel that you do not like how things are going, you can always opt to go to court. And even after beginning the divorce litigation, you can always decide to use mediation to resolve some, or all, of the issues on the table.
However, mediation is not for everyone. If your marriage ended because of domestic violence, you may not want to negotiate with your partner. Others find that mediation does not work for them because of some type of communications breakdown and would prefer to have a lawyer communicate with their soon to be ex-partner on their behalf. And if one spouse wants to avoid paying spousal support, they can drag the proceedings out, because a mediator does not have the power to issue a decision or order them to do anything.
The Mediation Process – What to Expect
Once you have selected a mediator, they may start things off by calling you on the phone to take basic information about you, your marital history, your family, and what issues you are looking to have resolved through the mediation process.
Next, both you and your spouse attend an orientation session where the rules of mediation are explained. For example, you will be instructed not to yell at your spouse during negotiations. This initial session often lasts about two hours and is usually held in an office or conference room. You can decide whether you want lawyers to be present at the sessions.
Next, you and your spouse will attend about three to eight mediation sessions that can last up to two hours. During these sessions, you will review financial documents, take a look at both of your budgets, divide property, and discuss the care of any marital children. In some cases, a mediator will allow children to attend some of the mediation sessions, if it provides a benefit to the child.
At the end, the mediator will draw up a memorandum of understanding that outlines all the issues that have been resolved. This is then sent to your and your spouse’s lawyers, who draw up a formal separation agreement based on what you and your spouse have agreed to.
How to Mediate Successfully
To come to a satisfactory resolution, it is important to remember that you will need to remain open to compromise. You will also need to listen to your spouse and try to understand where they are coming from and how they feel. If you are going through a contentious separation, this can be extremely difficult.
Chester County Divorce Lawyers at Eckell Sparks Help Clients Mediate Divorce Issues
The experienced Chester County divorce lawyers at Eckell, Sparks, Levy, Auerbach, Monte, Sloane, Matthews & Auslander, P.C. can help you make the most of your time during mediation and advise you if and when it would be better to bring your case to court.
To learn more about mediation and alternative dispute resolution, and how we can help, call us today at 610-565-3701 or contact us online. With offices conveniently located in Media and West Chester, we represent clients throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania, including Chester County, Delaware County, and Montgomery County as well as the surrounding communities of Collegeville, Havertown, Lansdale, Marcus Hook, Phoenixville and Upper Darby.