For married couples legally separating or divorcing, mediation can be a beneficial option to settle their issues.
What is divorce mediation?
Divorce mediation is a settlement process in which you and your spouse negotiate and try to agree on the issues in your divorce, such as child custody, child support, and asset division. You can try mediation before either party files for divorce or after the case has already started. Mediation can be voluntary. However, many judges will require that the parties at least try mediation before proceeding to trial.
At mediation, you and your spouse meet with a mediator – a neutral third party with training in dispute resolution. The mediator assists with communication between the parties, brainstorms ideas and possible solutions, and keeps the parties focused on reaching a settlement.
Benefits of Mediation
- Time and Money. If successful, mediation is almost always a less expensive and faster resolution than going to trial. If you have an attorney, you can (and should) attend mediation with your attorney present. However, the time and cost of preparing for mediation are generally less than for trial. If successful, you and your spouse will have the added benefit of resolving issues on your own schedule, instead of waiting for the court’s availability.
- Mediation is confidential. Unlike a trial, there will be no court reporter allowed or public record of what is said during mediation.
- Control over the Decisions. At mediation, the only decisions made are ones agreed to by the parties. You and your spouse know your situation better than a judge could ever be able to after a hearing. Mediation allows you to decide between yourselves what is fair and come up with creative solutions that work best for you and your family.
- Amicable Process. Divorce is difficult, and there are often complicated, emotionally driven issues to work out. The trial process tends to be adversarial and can lead to lingering hostility between you and your spouse. Mediation, on the other hand, can help you to resolve those issues amicably and peacefully. This can encourage communication and a better post-divorce relationship that may be beneficial – especially between co-parents.
Why Divorce Mediation May Not Be Right for You
- If you do not trust your spouse to be honest or to mediate in good faith. Mediation works if both parties are there in good faith, are being honest and forthcoming, and sincerely want to resolve the issues. If your spouse has a history of being deceitful, or if you otherwise suspect that your spouse is hiding assets or income, then mediation might not be in your interests or worth your time. This is especially true if you try mediation before filing for divorce and without the discovery process.
- If there is a history of an imbalance of power in the relationship. Communication and reasonableness are essential in mediation. It will be difficult for mediation to succeed if one party bullies the other or rather “win” than settle.
- If you are experiencing domestic abuse.If you are currently experiencing domestic abuse or if you fear for your safety or the safety of your children, then mediation likely is not your best option to protect you and your rights.
Finally, it is important to consider consulting a divorce attorney about the mediation process. Although a mediator may be able to explain the law, they are a neutral party and cannot give any legal advice. A divorce lawyer can help you prepare for mediation, advocate for you and advise you during the mediation, and/or review a settlement before it is finalized.
Depending on the case, mediation and collaborative divorce can be great options for resolving your issues and efficiently moving forward in your life. I have represented clients in mediation and I have also been hired by both spouses to be a neutral mediator for them. You can contact me if you are interested in a consultation about mediation or to hire me to be a mediator for your domestic matter.
Founded in 1998 in downtown Silver Spring, Maryland, Andalman & Flynn has forged a distinguished reputation for legal excellence. The Firm practices family law, estate planning, and probate throughout Maryland and the District of Columbia, and represents individuals seeking disability benefits throughout the country. The Firm focuses on cases that impact the rights of everyone, and are there for clients when responsive legal help is most critical. The Firm has provided legal analysis on national and local television and radio, and their attorneys often testify before legislative bodies and are routinely invited to contribute to prominent legal publications. For more information about Andalman & Flynn, please visit the website at andalmanflynn.com or call 301.563.6685.