If you are preparing to file for divorce or already have a divorce case pending, using an alternative dispute resolution method like mediation might help you save time and money. Mediation is a process in which both parties meet with a third-party mediator who is trained in helping people negotiate with one another to resolve their outstanding issues. If you choose to mediate your divorce case, you are not required to reach an agreement. If you are able to negotiate an agreement through the mediation process, however, you can avoid a protracted and potentially expensive litigation process. The family lawyers at the Law Offices of Craig L. Cook can help you decide whether mediation is appropriate for your case and can provide some tips for divorce mediation so that you are prepared.
Tips for Divorce Mediation
If you believe that your divorce case might be able to reach a resolution through mediation, it is important to prepare for the process. Divorce mediation may help you negotiate agreements for such things as child custody, parenting time, child support, spousal support, and property division. Following our tips for divorce mediation may increase the likelihood that you will be able to resolve the outstanding legal issues between you and your spouse.
Hire a Lawyer First and File for Divorce
First, before we dig in to our tips for divorce mediation, it’s important to understand that the first step in the divorce process is to find a lawyer. Your lawyer will then help you file a divorce petition (Oklahoma) or complaint (Arkansas), and the discovery process will begin. After that, if ordered by the court or agreed to by you and your spouse, you will enter mediation. Following mediation, your attorney will use what is agreed to in the mediation to prepare the Decree of Divorce and other documentation.
While a mediator is a neutral, independent party who will seek to help you and your spouse reach an agreement, a lawyer will act as your advisor and advocate during the divorce. Your lawyer will represent only you – not your spouse – so he or she will always keep your best interests in mind. Your lawyer will also provide advice and information regarding the law in your state and how it applies to your specific divorce case. Most importantly, your lawyer can help you identify your objectives for mediation so that you have a clear picture of your goals and a strategy to achieve them.
Choose a Certified Domestic Relations Mediator
Choosing the right mediator is just as important as reaching the decision to mediate your divorce. If you select a mediator who is not familiar with family law matters, you may be less likely to successfully resolve the legal disputes that you have with your spouse. You can find a list of certified mediators on the website of the Arkansas Judiciary. Both you and your estranged spouse must be comfortable with the mediator and trust their professional judgment, so you may need to interview a few different mediators to locate the right choice.
Be Prepared to Make Your Own Decisions in Mediation
The role of a mediator is not to tell you what to do. Instead, the mediator is a neutral party who will help you understand the different choices that you have and the potential outcomes of each choice. He or she may help you to negotiate with your spouse but will not be there to take sides, so you should be prepared to make decisions for yourself during mediation. You and your spouse must ultimately decide whether you are willing to agree on a resolution for each of the different issues that you are handling.
Be Willing to Compromise
Mediation will not work if you refuse to cooperate with the process. If you go into mediation with the idea that it will fail and refuse to participate, the process’s ultimate failure will be a self-fulfilling prophecy of your own creation. Instead, you should approach mediation with an open mind and with a goal of resolving the outstanding issues. You must be willing to compromise as well. Many issues in divorce are fraught with emotional conflict, but if you can set your conflicts aside and view things logically, it might allow you to see places where you can compromise.
Go into Mediation Fully Prepared
Before your scheduled mediation, it is a good idea to talk to your divorce lawyer. Your attorney can advise you about what to expect during the mediation process and can help you prepare for it. He or she may provide you with calculations regarding child support guidelines and estimates of any spousal support amounts that you might expect to receive or expect to pay. He or she may also help you to understand the tax implications of different divisions of assets and debts so that you will be prepared to discuss them knowledgeably.
What Happens If You Don’t Reach an Agreement?
Many people wish to use mediation because it can potentially prevent a long and costly litigation process and help you move forward with your life. Divorce litigation can drag on for months or even years when a case is bitterly contested. However, some cases are simply not appropriate for mediation. For example, if your spouse has been abusive, litigation may be more appropriate. Other divorce cases do not reach resolutions in mediation.
If you are unable to negotiate an agreement, you can still pursue your case through the court process and through a divorce trial. Mediation may help you resolve most of the outstanding issues so that less is left to litigate. It is possible for you to leave mediation with a partial agreement and only a single issue or two to be resolved in court. Even a partial agreement can help save you time and money.
Looking for more tips for divorce mediation? To learn more about mediation and whether it is an appropriate choice for you, contact the Law Offices of Craig L. Cook. Call us today at 479-783-8000 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.