While some divorce cases cannot escape litigation and the courtroom due to complexities or unresolved disputes, many others can be successfully resolved by other means, such as mediation. Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution that offers divorcing couples the option of a collaborative approach to divorce. Unlike contested divorce cases where each spouse will appear before a judge to argue their individual position, mediation takes place outside the courtroom offering a more private, less intense atmosphere. Mediation is also a helpful tool for couples who want to maintain control over their divorce, as decisions will be discussed and resolved collaboratively before the final divorce agreement is presented to a judge. Mediation is a helpful tool for couples who are not legally married, such as domestic partners, as it provides the opportunity to resolve issues outside the scope of the family courts.
What is Mediation?
Mediation is a process of resolving conflict and making decisions regarding divorce designed to reduce the likelihood of the divorce going to trial. In some cases, mediation is ordered during litigation. Mediation provides a collaborative, safe atmosphere for couples to discuss and resolve the most commonly disputed areas of divorce, including:
- Alimony and Child Support
- Child custody/timesharing
- Visitation schedules
- Property Division
What is the Process of Mediation?
When mediation begins, each spouse will secure independent legal representation if they do not already have representation. Then, the couple has the option of choosing mediation services offered through the court, or hiring an independent certified mediator. The mediator is an objective, neutral party in the process that offers guidance and support during the course of drafting the divorce agreement. The attorneys will also offer guidance on the important legal implications of the terms of the divorce agreement.
As mediation moves forward, each party to the divorce may obtain pertinent information to present before the attorneys and mediator, such as financial statements, inventory of assets, inventory of debts, income statements, and real estate holding information. These documents are necessary in order to create an equitable distribution of property. Other helpful information that may be presented during mediation includes information about minor children if applicable, schooling arrangements and healthcare needs.
During mediation, the items resolved in the divorce agreement are not legally binding until they are drafted with the signature of each party to the divorce. In many cases, this process involves the attorneys and the mediator working together to draft, review, and complete the terms of the agreement. Once the process of mediation is complete and all parties agree and sign, the divorce agreement will be presented to the court to continue the process of divorce through the applicable legal channels. The continuing course of mediation will depend on whether the mediation occurs before litigation has been initiated (pre-suit), or has been ordered during the process of litigation to resolve disputes independently.
If you want to know more about mediation services, contact a Gainesville Family Law Attorney today to schedule a free consultation.