What to Expect in Divorce Mediation

If you are parting ways with your spouse, divorce mediation can offer an alternative way to resolve the issues that must be decided. Mediation can help amicably settle any disputes related to property and debt division, parental rights and responsibilities, child support, spousal support, and all other issues. The process can also save you a significant amount of time and money that would otherwise be spent in litigation — and help reduce the emotional impact divorce or separation can have on you and your children.

What is Divorce Mediation?

Divorce mediation is an alternative dispute resolution method that can help you and your spouse reach a settlement outside of court. Mediation in general in the area of family law can encompass any number of kinds of disputes and attempts to resolve them.  The process is informal and allows spouses to remain in control of the outcome, rather than let a judge decide the issues that must be determined. Mediating a termination of marriage, whether divorce or dissolution, as well as mediating separation between never-married people, offers a number of crucial benefits, including the following:

  • Privacy — Mediation takes place in a neutral and private setting, unlike litigation which occurs in a public courtroom. This can help ensure the details concerning your relationship, finances, and assets remain confidential and do not become part of the public record.
  • Cost-effectiveness — Since mediation can keep conflict to a minimum, it is much more cost-effective than the time-consuming litigation process. If you and your partner agree to mediation, it can make the separation process much less contentious.
  • Efficiency — The mediation process is generally much faster than the litigation process since sessions can be scheduled at the convenience of the parties, and they are not bound to the court’s calendar.
  • Flexibility — Meditation encourages honest and open communication between partners to help them achieve flexible solutions that work for them and their children.

Mediation can be used at any point in the life of a family law case, including before anything has been filed with the court, during the court process, and after a final decree to assist in ironing out difficulties in carrying out the provisions of the decree, including property division, parenting issues, or support issues.

What is the Divorce Mediation Process?

To begin mediation, you and your spouse must both consent to use this form of alternative dispute resolution. You must also agree upon which mediator you will work with. However, even when mediation is used, it is important to be aware that divorce, dissolution, legal separation, and annulment are still legal processes — and it’s essential to understand your rights. Before you begin mediation, it’s best to speak with an attorney who can provide you with the legal counsel you need and ensure you do not waive your rights.

During mediation sessions, you and your partner, spouse, or co-parent will meet with the mediator in a neutral environment. While each mediator handles the first session differently, he or she will take the time to gather information and discuss background information with you to help ensure she understands the facts of your case. He or she will also perform an intake and talk about what you can expect from the process. The mediator will determine what issues you and your spouse/partner/co-parent agree upon and which ones still need to be resolved.

After the information-gathering stage, the mediator will assist in outlining your objectives regarding the issues that still need to be worked out. This so-called “framing stage” of mediation involves having an open discussion and addressing each of your needs and interests in order to reach a compromise. The framing stage of mediation lays the foundation for the negotiation stage.

Once the issues have been identified and framed, negotiations can begin. With the help of the mediator, you both can brainstorm solutions and evaluate your options. This typically involves both sides making concessions to arrive at a resolution that works for everyone.

Drafting an Agreement in Mediation

Ideally, mediation will result in the parties reaching a full agreement concerning the issues that must be decided. Upon reaching an agreement, the mediator will assist with drafting a memorandum of understanding that outlines the terms you reached during the mediation sessions. Any issues that cannot be settled using the mediation process will proceed to litigation or negotiation between lawyers for resolution.

It’s vital to keep in mind that since a mediator cannot provide legal advice, the agreement reached should be reviewed with your attorney before signing it. After it has been executed, it must be submitted to the court for approval, and upon being signed by the judge, it will become an enforceable order.

The mediation process can usually resolve most matters in just a few sessions. However, if the case involves complex issues, several more mediation sessions may be necessary.

When is Mediation Not a Good Idea?

Mediation is generally not recommended in cases where abuse or domestic violence has been an issue. Cases are screened prior to the beginning of mediation and throughout the process, if necessary. Mediators who handle cases involving domestic violence are required to have specialized training and appropriate safety measures are put into place to ensure the safety of all parties.

While Ohio follows the Uniform Mediation Act, local courts also have their own rules and procedures when it comes to mediation in divorce cases. It’s vital to take note of any distinctions in the mediation process in the county in which your case is filed.

Contact an Experienced Ohio Divorce Attorney

If you are thinking about ending your marriage, mediation can offer you and your family a number of benefits. It’s important to have a knowledgeable attorney by your side with experience in mediation. Family law attorney Melissa Graham-Hurd offers mediation services to spouses who are seeking to end their marriages rationally and peacefully using the mediation process. Contact Melissa Graham-Hurd and Associates, LLC to schedule a consultation to learn how we can help.