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What is Divorce Mediation?

Mediation is a form of Alternative Dispute Resolution that provides parties an opportunity to resolve disputes outside of court. In most cases, a judge will require that a divorcing couple participates in mediation before a final trial date can be set. Mediation involves the use of a professional mediator, who is a neutral third party with a duty of confidentiality to both parties.

A mediator will assist each party by facilitating the exchange of ideas, finding a middle ground on issues that could go either way in court, offering creative ideas, and drafting a Settlement Agreement once disputes are resolved. Mediation is commonly used in contested divorces to avoid going to court on disputed issues such as asset allocation and child custody.

The process generally begins with the mediator meeting with each party and their attorney individually. The mediator will outline their mediation style and format of mediation.

After the initial meeting with the mediator, the mediator will discuss with each party their disputed issues. The Petitioner will provide the mediator with an initial offer to settle any disputed issues. The mediator will then meet with the opposing party to discuss their desired outcome and present the first party’s offer. From there, the mediator will facilitate the back-and-forth exchange of ideas and settlement options.

Once a full or partial settlement is reached, the mediator will draft an irrevocable Settlement Agreement, which both parties will sign. The Settlement Agreement will be filed with the Court and if it is a full settlement agreement a Final Divorce Decree will be drafted by one of the attorney’s. If it is a partial settlement agreement, then the parties will proceed to a final trial before the Judge or Jury to decide the remaining issues.

Overall, mediation can be an excellent tool to resolve some or all disputes. Mediation is generally one day, resulting in a less expensive way to come to a resolution than parties negotiating through their attorneys. Attorneys will often inform their clients of the possible outcome at trial and the fact that a Judge could decide something completely different than their client’s desired outcome. Mediation allows each party to take control of their divorce and determine the outcome of their disputes.

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