Mediation is an excellent opportunity for couples to settle their divorce, save money and avoid the emotional distress that divorce litigation can cause. Most judges require couples to participate in mediation at least one time before a trial is scheduled. The role of a mediator is often confused with the role of the attorney and the judge. A mediator is an objective third party that is not able to offer legal advice but rather helps guide couples going through divorce to reach a settlement without the Court’s involvement. A mediator does not make binding decisions but rather acts more as a facilitator. As such, mediation is most successful when each spouse has hired their own attorney, exchanged financial information with each other and received sufficient legal, and often accounting, advice to understand what each spouse may be entitled to under the laws of their state.
The mediation process is far more informal than a trial. The mediation process can be successfully employed to do as little as solve one issue the couple cannot agree upon to settling their entire divorce. Mediations often take place in a comfortable environment that is designed to put the participants at ease. The spouses are most often placed in different rooms with their own attorney and forensic accountant, if there is one. The process itself is confidential and if the couple does not reach a resolution, the judge will never know what was discussed at mediation other than the fact that a settlement was not reached. If a settlement is reached, it will be put into written form and signed by the couple. Once the agreement is signed, it is as enforceable as any other contract.
Mediation not only helps couples save valuable time and money, it promotes positive dispute resolution. Mediation takes the decision making out of the hands of the judge and puts it back into the hands of the spouses and allows couples to control how their marriage will end.