When couples decide to divorce, it is often hard for them to envision settling all their differences in an amicable fashion. Divorce is commonly associated with contentious litigation based on the assumption that parties are completely unable to communicate. While divorce is a difficult process, the parties do have a choice over how they approach resolving issues related to ending the marriage. Litigation is certainly one option that is always available, and telling a judge/jury one’s side of the story has appeal, but litigation also has a tendency to destroy the parties’ ability to have a civil relationship once the process is over.
Retaining the capacity to have some level of future communication with an ex-spouse is important if children are involved, and choosing a less adversarial method of resolving disagreements will make it easier to preserve a functioning relationship. In fact, many family law courts in Indiana require couples to attempt mediation before they will schedule the final divorce hearing, hoping that the couple can iron out their differences without court intervention. Thus, having a basic understanding of what mediation can and cannot do, as well as some of the benefits it offers over traditional divorce cases, will follow below.
Mediation is an alternative to traditional litigation, and can be initiated by the parties themselves or following a court order. Mediation is a private process that allows parties to settle legal disputes, but it cannot legally dissolve a marriage. Thus, even if mediation is chosen as the method to resolve divorce-related issues, a petition for divorce must still be filed to formally end the marriage. Any settlement formed during mediation would be filed with the court for approval, and incorporated into the divorce decree. Importantly, mediation is an entirely voluntary process, and if one party does not like the outcome or direction the mediation sessions take, he or she can reject the offered settlement and transfer the matter back to the court.
The mediation process typically includes the parties, the parties’ attorneys, and a mediator. Since mediation is non-binding, the mediator mainly acts as communication facilitator between the parties. The mediation sessions may be between the mediator and the parties, together or separately, and the number of sessions the parties attend depends upon the complexity of the issues that need resolution and the willingness of each party to continue participating. To help the mediation process work more effectively, the mediator usually collects financial information and an outline of family concerns to determine what an optimal outcome might be. The mediator may also offer suggestions to resolve disputes, but the ultimate decision-maker in mediation is always the parties themselves. Attorneys attend to advise their clients on the legal consequences of any potential settlement agreement so each spouse fully understands what he or she is agreeing to follow.
Benefits of Mediation Over Litigation
There are three principal benefits mediation offers over litigation – time, cost, and privacy. Courts are notoriously backed up, and divorcing spouses may have to wait months to get on a judge’s calendar for a hearing, and are usually stuck with whatever opening is available, regardless of convenience or availability. Mediation is much easier to schedule, and the parties have much more flexibility as to when each session takes place. Additionally, the cost of mediation is almost always less than the cost of traditional litigation. Attorneys typically need less time to prep for mediation sessions versus a hearing or trial, and fewer experts are necessary to offer opinions on contested issues. Finally, mediation is a private resolution process that allows the parties to keep the details of their marriage and any settlement agreement completely confidential. While the court must approve the final agreement, the terms do not need to appear in the divorce decree, a document openly available to the public.
Consult a Divorce Attorney
Mediation can be a low-cost and quicker route to resolving issues in divorce, but this alternative resolution option is not appropriate in all cases. Before entering into this process, talk to a divorce attorney about the facts of your case to see if mediation is right for you. Family law attorney Christopher L. Arrington understands the stress brought on by divorce and relieves some of this burden for his clients by handling the legal process, allowing them to focus on transitioning to the next stage of their lives. If you live in Danville, Plainfield, Brownsburg or the surrounding area, contact him to schedule an appointment.