There are quite a few ways to get divorced these days, so how do you know which way is right for you? Over the next few months, I will discuss in detail the tenets and process of each avenue (mediation, collaborative, litigation), starting with divorce mediation.
In divorce mediation, a neutral third party, chosen by the parties, facilitates conversations that address all issues of divorce. Mediation is non-binding unless a mutually agreeable settlement is reached. Unlike litigation, the parties, not a judge, control the outcome. This can have great appeal to couples that want creative solutions pertaining to their particular needs. Also appealing, the proceedings are private and are not a matter of public record. This is again in contrast to litigation, which is public.
There are five major principles of divorce mediation: it is voluntary, private, confidential, self-determined and based on informed decision-making.
1. Divorce Mediation is Voluntary
Attendance at an initial meeting may be mandatory if ordered by a judge, but continued participation is strictly voluntary. A resolution cannot be imposed on either party and any resolution reached must be mutually agreed to and voluntary.
2. Divorce Mediation is Private
The mediation only involves those necessary to come to an agreement. This includes the two parties, the mediator and any other professionals, such as a coach or financial neutral, agreed to by the parties. Any records or notes cannot be used in any future court proceeding, which is public record, should the mediation process break down. Most mediators destroy all records of the mediation once complete for this reason.
3. Divorce Mediation is Confidential
All mediation sessions are confidential and, as stated above, limited to only professionals agreed to by the parties. The parties must sign a waiver allowing access to information for a requesting party. The parties must also agree that it would be beneficial or there are compelling reasons to limit confidentiality in order to do so.
4. Divorce Mediation Requires Self-Determination
The parties are responsible for their own conflict, behavior, and solutions. A third party will not determine or enforce resolutions. It is up to the parties to create their own solutions and be accountable to the decisions reached.
5. Divorce Mediation Requires Informed Decision-Making
Each party must have the necessary information needed to make an informed decision with regard to their conflict’s resolution. This will sometimes require a professional to “level the playing field.” For example, a financial neutral can ease the anxiety by providing scenarios that even a party less confident in financial matters can understand. In this way, all parties can rest assured that the information was received and understood, and an informed decision can then be made.
Divorce mediation may work for your situation, or it may not. It can work for couples that are looking for a more cost-effective way to divorce and who are focused on a better long-term relationship in order to co-parent. However, one spouse may not agree to mediate. If this is the case, collaborative divorce, arbitration, or litigation are the alternatives. I will go into detail about each in the coming months.
Nicole became a a Certified Divorce Mediator and a CFDP® after having experienced a divorce herself. She saw how difficult it was to make important financial decisions while overwhelmed with the emotions that come with divorce. As a divorce financial planner and mediator, she helped hundreds of couples move through divorce and gain control of their financial future.