Once you have decided to get a divorce, it is time to decide on how to proceed. Many couples make the erroneous decision to quickly get a lawyer and go through the court system. By nature, that method is acrimonious and full of conflict trying to get the best outcome for yourself and your lawyer. Sometimes divorces can drag on and on much longer than you thought depending upon the extent of the conflict. Once you are before the judge, they don’t know you or understand your family situation. Don’t get me wrong, the judge applies the law and is fair; they just don’t have much time to spend on your case and making a ruling. Just by virtue of that constraint, not to mention how each lawyer presents their side, all of a sudden you have a ruling and a situation where no one wins.
Wouldn’t you rather try a different method? Even if you have a bitter dispute between you and your soon-to-be former spouse, mediation can help you. Divorce mediation is a way to resolve divorce or disputes arising from divorce that allows you both to control the outcome. You and your former spouse are making the decisions together, not a judge or a lawyer. You are also building a new relationship with your former spouse that will take you through child-raising and the rest of your life where you have to interact civilly and intelligently due to your children. Your mediators help and guide both of you with the knowledge that only you two can determine what is best for the dissolution of the marriage and for your children. The mediators spend several hours with you understanding your family and your situations and they are there to create your personalized, and unique to your family, solution.
So what are the steps and how does it work? In general, mediation consists of several joint meetings between you and your spouse that can last several hours each. The mediator can also meet with each spouse separately to solidify issues and focus. With each person, the mediator focuses on the solutions that will be fair and useful and take all factors into consideration. In all meetings, you discuss issues that need to be resolved and work together to a solution.
How does the mediator help? The mediator facilitates discussion, focuses the communication and is there to make suggestions and provide information. The mediator is highly trained to help people resolve their differences and come to equitable and agreeable solutions.
With children involved, mediation is sometimes a lifeline for transitioning the family from one situation to a new normal. Parents are focused on what is best for the child and try to work within that framework. Parenting decisions are made together and parents are taught techniques for resolving future issues. Parents also can re-visit mediation if new concerns or issues pop-up that might require a change in agreements.
Once mediation is completed the mediator takes your agreements and drafts your marital settlement agreement. You and your spouse can then take that agreement to an attorney to review and consult. Then the agreement is filed and, like most divorces, whether they are through the court or through mediation, the divorce is final in approximately six months.
What areas can a mediator cover? Mediators cover a wide range of areas in the divorce arena. We see traditional and same-sex couples on issues including Child Custody and Parenting Plans, Property Division, and Child, Spousal, and Family Support. San Diego Family Mediation Center also has extensive experience with mediation for blended and non-traditional families. We focus on the solution that is right for your family.
by: Amanda Singer