Divorce mediation is when you and your spouse enlist a neutral third party to help you agree on things like child custody, parenting time with your children, alimony, and division of marital assets and debts. Divorce mediation is voluntary, so either you or your spouse can withdraw at any time.
And divorce mediation can often save you money on lawyer fees. Because once a divorce complaint is filed with the court, you often have to comply with court-mandated timelines and appear for mandatory court settlement conferences, which your lawyer will charge for.
But before deciding if divorce mediation is right for you, here are 3 things you need to know first that no one tells you.
1. In most cases, you’ll still need a lawyer.
I often hear people tell me, “we want to avoid lawyers and keep things amicable by going to mediation.” And that’s partly true. Divorce mediation can definitely help keep things amicable. And most lawyers generally charge much less if you come to them with a mediated agreement. But agreements reached in divorce mediation generally are not legally binding.
Instead, the divorce mediator typically draws up a document called a “Memorandum of Understanding.” You take that to your lawyer to draft up the legally binding agreement called a “Marital Settlement Agreement” and file the required legal documents with the court to enter your divorce. Importantly, your lawyer can also suggest certain provisions in the Marital Settlement Agreement to protect you and keep you out of court after the divorce.
2. Divorce mediators cannot give legal advice to either you or your spouse.
Only a lawyer can give you legal advice about how your decisions in divorce mediation will affect you. Your lawyer can also advise you during mediation so you can make informed decisions that impact your legal rights and obligations.
3. Divorce mediation can be a waste of time and money if both spouses don’t have similar knowledge about the marital finances.
It’s common in many marriages for one spouse to know more about the marital finances than the other. But in divorce mediation, you’ll both be making decisions about such things as how to divide the marital assets and how much alimony or child support, if any, is appropriate.
So, unless you and your spouse are both relatively familiar with the incomes, assets, and debts of the marriage, or you have joint bank accounts or other assets in joint names, divorce mediation may not be productive – or even worthwhile.
The exception is where the spouse with the greater knowledge, access, or earnings will be completely transparent and forthcoming in disclosing all assets and financial statements.
This is more likely to happen when both spouses (1) have accepted the divorce is going to happen, (2) are able to make the necessary commitment to reaching an agreement; (3) are each willing to try to see the other’s perspective, and (4) are able to focus on achieving their most important goals while letting go of some of the less significant issues.
Admittedly, none of this will be easy, but it will be worth it when you, instead of the court, are in charge of the decisions for your children and your financial future.
To find out more about how you can benefit from divorce mediation, please call or click here to schedule a personalized consultation or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.