Divorce mediation is becoming increasingly popular among couples who would like to avoid the frustration, uncertainty, and high cost of litigation. A neutral third party, the mediator, is hired to help the divorcing spouses negotiate a settlement agreement that works for everyone involved. Neither spouse is required to accept the mediator’s proposals. However, such proposals are often fairer than the “solutions” ordered by a divorce court judge.
Although mediation is more popular than ever, there remain several notions about the process that are inaccurate or altogether false. It’s worth spending some time to clarify or debunk the most common fallacies. Read on for 5 things many people believe about divorce mediation that are untrue.
#1 – Mediation Is Done Without Attorneys
Although it is possible to go through mediation without the help of a lawyer, most couples would be better served by hiring legal counsel. A settlement agreement still needs to be negotiated. Moreover, it is important that the rights of both spouses and their children (if they have any) are properly addressed.
A divorce attorney who has experience with the mediation process can suggest creative solutions for custody arrangements, spousal support, and the division of debts and property. He or she can also provide insight and advice regarding how best to protect his or her client’s rights. When the time comes to finalize the divorce, an attorney can ensure the appropriate paperwork is completed and submitted.
#2 – Men Have An Advantage In Mediation
A lot of people assume men have an unfair advantage over women during the mediation process. This notion may stem from an assumption that women are less familiar with the marital finances. It may also stem from a belief that women are more inclined to accept proposals just to avoid a confrontation. In reality, neither factor plays a major role in mediation, especially in cases where both parties have retained legal counsel for advice.
It is also worth emphasizing that both parties can decide to abandon mediation and pursue a settlement via divorce court. If a woman feels that a particular proposal is unfair or unreasonable, she can simply withhold her agreement to it.
#3 – Divorce Court Takes Less Time
There are usually several meetings, private and with both spouses in the same room, that take place during the mediation process. For this reason, some people immediately assume that going through a conventional divorce is less time-consuming.
In fact, mediation typically takes less time than going through the courts. The process is more efficient, which allows the divorcing couple to sidestep many of the hurdles and delays often confronted in the legal system.
#4 – Mediation Is Appropriate For All Couples
Although mediation is less costly, less time-consuming, and less frustrating (generally) than seeking a divorce through the court system, it is not a good option for everyone. Much depends on the dynamic shared between the divorcing spouses. For example, if domestic violence has occurred, one spouse may feel uncomfortable sitting in the same room with the other. The same is true for marriages in which verbal or emotional abuse have occurred.
Another problem with mediation is that one party may use the process to stall a settlement agreement. For example, suppose one spouse believes he will need to pay a certain amount of money in spousal support each month. He may agree to mediation while having no intention of agreeing to a settlement proposal. Here, it would be more expedient for the couple to pursue their divorce through the courts.
#5 – The Mediator Makes The Final Decision
A common fallacy about the mediation process is that the mediator serves the same function as a divorce court judge. That is, he or she “rules” on a settlement agreement and the divorcing couple is required to abide by the mediator’s decision.
In reality, the mediator has no such authority. He or she is there to help resolve conflict between the two parties, so they can forge a fair settlement agreement that is acceptable to both of them. The mediator does not decide how property will be divided, how custody issues are settled, or whether spousal support should be included in the settlement.
Divorce mediation can work for a majority of couples. But both spouses must be receptive to the process and committed to working through their problems toward a mutually acceptable resolution.
The author writes about mnay topics including parenting advice, legal issues and health related topics. She is currenting writing for www.EphraimLaw.com on legal topics including divorce.