Divorce is difficult for everyone, and going through the court system can make it much more complicated. Between the intrinsic adversity that comes with our legal system and filing motions, responding to interrogatories and evidentiary hearings, the legal process of divorce is lengthy, antagonistic and public. Anyone can attend divorce hearings, and most divorce records are public.
In some instances, couples have found that private mediation is a more suitable alternative for them to use for their divorce. While they can still have their attorneys throughout the process, divorce mediation is non-adversarial and private, and it is not binding unless the parties reach an agreement and file it with the court. It is also flexible in that if you cannot mediate all issues in the divorce, you can settle some of them and leave the remaining issues for the attorneys to litigate in court.
What does a mediator do?
A mediator is a neutral third party trained in mediation whose goal is to facilitate a conversation between the parties and provide structure to the discussion if needed so the couple remains on track and focused on their interests.
In addition, while a mediator does not make decisions for the parties, they can offer ideas and help the parties identify their most important priorities so that both can walk away with some or all of what they want.
What is the difference between private and court-appointed mediation?
Mediation has become part of family courts across the United States for several reasons; to help alleviate the pressure courts have due to the high number of divorce cases under their authority and because judges want the parties to reach their own agreements if they can.
In contrast, private mediation is separate from the court system, and it does not involve filing anything until the very end, if the parties reach an agreement. Again, while mediation is not binding, if the parties reach an agreement they are satisfied with, they can file the agreement with the court for the judge to sign, after which the agreement becomes binding.
Divorce is complex in any situation, but it can be easier if the parties are willing to work together or at least allow their attorneys to negotiate fairly and in good faith on their behalf, and private mediation seeks to provide the parties with a non-adversarial environment conducive to reaching an agreement and hopefully preserve the relationship post-divorce.