An acrimonious divorce is not helpful to any of the parties involved. It can be draining on financial resources and harmful to kids. The best way forward is to rely on divorce mediation and the services of a mediator who will be able to ensure that the divorce does not descend into chaos and confusion.
Divorce mediation can help settle disputes in a non-adversarial manner.
In Virginia, for example, all legal family cases involving divorces, annulment, distribution of property, child support and maintenance, visitation or custody issues, and retirement and tax-related matters require mediation. However, mediation cannot always be used where there is evidence of domestic abuse or violence. Also, mediation is not mandatory if there is an imbalance of power between the contesting parties. In such situations, there will be lack of trust between the divorcing couple and this in turn will reduce the effectiveness of mediation.
Divorce mediation can help you reach a resolution and settle your divorce without having to go to court – if done correctly.
Here are a few things you need to keep in mind if you’re considering divorce mediation to amicably settle your case.
1. Go for Divorce Mediation if Kids Are Involved
Involvement of children is one of the biggest reasons why couples choose mediation. An acrimonious divorce will make it hard for you to congenially resolve issues related to future needs of your kids like meeting college expenses and deciding on educational needs.
Mediation is mandatory in some states: a divorcing couple must attend one or more court-ordered mediation sessions to try to resolve their issues before proceeding to trial. Child custody, visitation, and support are common issues for mediation, which can allow the parties to work out an amicable solution. Divorce mediation lawyers are neutral and do not take a partisan view of the matter. The best interests of the children are of foremost consideration. The mediator considers it his duty to work out a mutually agreeable solution keeping in mind the end to be achieved.
Children are a sensitive issue and can cause unnecessary stress and strain in negotiations. With a mediator helping you, it would be possible to keep channels of communication open and work out agreements that stand the test of time. This also instills mutual confidence and trust in both the parents, helping them to cooperate in raising the children in the future as well.
2. Domestic Violence and Divorce Mediation
Mediation is possible when both partners are working in an atmosphere of trust, cooperation, and understanding. This becomes impossible when the mediation is carried out under the shadow of domestic violence. Even if the incidents are isolated, the victim usually feels fear and emotional vulnerability. There is an invincible power or control the perpetrator of domestic abuse holds over his or her victim. This makes mediation counter-productive.
In some cases, the victim might find mediation empowering. It allows her to get out of the toxic and dangerous relationship dynamic and voice her opinion. A safe and secure mediation process will also give the victim ownership over the outcome and help keep the divorce out of court.
In Virginia, for example, if there is proven history of domestic or child abuse, or if there are high-risk factors involved like prior use of weapons, physical violence including sexual attack or attempt to strangulate, or the infliction of serious physical injuries on the victim, then mediation is not mandatory. Also, if mediation is opted for, both the parties must be represented by attorneys.
3. What Can Mediators Do in Cases of Domestic Violence?
It becomes important for mediators to ensure the safety of clients when there is the added problem of domestic violence. If you were a victim of domestic violence, if there was incidence of child abuse at home, or there are chances of them occurring in the future, then mediation becomes a tricky issue.
There is no need for you to shun mediation altogether. The mediator will ensure that the discussions are carried out in a safe environment and you are free from coercion or fear. It is also the responsibility of the mediator to see that you remain safe during as well as after the mediation. There have been several instances where victims of domestic abuse were targeted by ex-partners, harassed, intimidated, attacked or even killed, after the mediation is long over. So unless continued safety is ensured, the mediator will not proceed with the negotiations.
4. Responsibilities of the Mediator
A qualified and experienced mediator will ensure that the agreements are reached in an amicable manner. It is important that all decisions are a result of free will and are voluntary. In many cases the mediator will be reluctant to continue with cases where there is extreme power imbalance or threat of coercion.
It is important that your mediator looks upon every case on an individual basis. Complete confidentiality will be maintained on all details shared by you; hence it is important that you or your attorney informs the mediator about the nature of abuse in detail. When there are mental stress and personality disorders also thrown into the milieu, the adversarial nature of litigated divorce can prove to be even more harmful. In such cases a mediator can be extremely helpful in bringing about calm into the proceedings.
Divorce mediation can help settle disputes in a mutually agreeable, non-adversarial manner. It also prevents divorce cases from reaching the courtroom, which saves money and time. Explore your options for resolving your divorce-related issues, and take the best path for your unique situation.
Sandy Funches is a freelance content writer for law firms. Her forte is medical negligence law and personal injury law.