If you are experiencing a marriage crisis and feel the only way out is dissolution, you are not alone. In America, there is one divorce every 42 seconds, which amounts to 746,971 divorces annually.
Marriage is the most intimate relationship between two people and a foundation for a family. Most people see marriage as an oasis of peace and love, where they feel appreciated and accepted for who they are. Mutual respect and understanding are the basis of every healthy marriage.
However, like any other human association, marriages often undergo crisis and eventually end. The spouses no longer feel an intimate relationship with their partner. If all attempts to save the matrimony fail, it is time to go separate ways – peacefully, whenever possible.
As a traditional court procedure, litigation does not have a good reputation in resolving marriage disputes. In a vindictive, adversarial process, litigation cannot bring reconciliation and enable positive co-parenting post-divorce relationships. The spouses aim at victory without much regard for the overall consequences to their children and themselves.
Luckily, there is a better solution. Mediation, as an out-of-court method, provides divorcing spouses with countless benefits. Divorce mediation is also known as family mediation in Florida. Mediation stands out among other techniques with its neutrality, confidentiality, time, and cost-effectiveness.
To help you quickly grasp the basics, below is a beginners guide to divorce mediation:
1. What is Mediation?
Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution method. Unlike litigation, a court process with strictly regulated rules, mediation is an out-of-court procedure with little or no form. The key features of litigation are vindictiveness and its adversarial nature. The parties engage in an all-or-nothing court battle to defeat their opponent and win compensation. Conversely, mediation is a non-adversarial process of negotiation facilitated by a neutral third person. The mediator is a retired judge, an attorney, or a professional with subject matter expertise. In family matters, mediators possess in-depth knowledge and experience in divorce-related issues, including negotiation skills and psychology training.
2. How Does the Process Look?
The mediation process consists of several stages. First, the mediator introduces themselves. Then, the parties get the opportunity to offer opening statements regarding the dispute. After that, each party goes to a separate room for private talks with the mediator. The private sessions are called caucuses. The mediator goes back and forth between the rooms hearing each party and evaluating their arguments. They are not allowed to reveal to the other party what is discussed in private sessions unless authorized. Following caucuses, the parties gather in joint sessions to discuss the disputed matter openly. The mediator does not resolve the dispute or propose a solution. Their role is to remain neutral, facilitating the negotiations. After bringing offers and counteroffers, the parties settle their issues peacefully. A successful process results in signing a mediation agreement.
3. What About the Time and Costs?
Resolving a divorce dispute in litigation will take months or even years. Consider yourself lucky if you get a court hearing date in a reasonable time. The litigation rules are strict and rigid. Each stage of the process carries additional costs, adding to the overall length of the procedure. Think about discovery, expert witness testimony, and opening and closing arguments. Each stage involves court filing and attorney fees, increasing the expense. Contrarily, mediation has no strict formal rules, which is why the process is quick and effective, lasting several weeks or even days. The mediator fees are much lower. There is a wide range of options when it comes to charging. Some mediators charge by the hour, while others bill by day or session. You can also negotiate to split the costs with the other party.
4. Is it Confidential?
Every divorce involves intensive emotions such as anger, resentment, sadness, and anxiety. Resolving a divorce dispute means there is a lot of sensitive personal information you are interested in keeping out of public sight. However, litigation does not provide you with such protection. Everything you share during the court process becomes available as a part of a publicly accessible record. On the other hand, confidentiality is a core feature of mediation. By signing a mediation agreement, both parties and the mediator pledge to keep everything revealed during the process confidential. That includes future litigation – parties cannot use the information they learned during mediation.
5 . Can you Change the Mediator?
Mediation is a voluntary dispute resolution method, meaning the spouses choose the mediator voluntarily by signing the mediation agreement. Likewise, they can replace the mediator or abandon the mediation process depending solely on their discretion. That is a stark contrast to litigation, where parties do not have a say in conducting the procedure. The state-appointed judge issues a binding decision with parties having no possibility to affect the outcome. In divorce mediation, the spouses control the process and the result.
6. What are Other Benefits of Using Mediation?
Unlike judges, who have no knowledge, experience, or time to deal with the psychological aspects of divorce, mediators can recognize and treat the causes of a marriage crisis. Knowing the risk factors that typically cause divorce, mediators can understand each spouse’s motivation for divorce. With such knowledge, mediation can offer more than just compensation or other financial benefits. Mediators actively engage in reconciling the spouses during negotiations. Such an effort contributes to creating productive relationships after divorce. If you have children, mediators will help you keep fruitful communication and co-parenting links. Otherwise, spouses can benefit from mediation by building healthy and grown-up attitudes about divorce and improving their mental well-being.
7. Is Mediation Settlement Enforceable?
If negotiations are successful, the mediator will help the spouses settle their dispute by signing a divorce mediation agreement. The agreement is legally binding and enforceable as a court judgment.
The Right Mediator Can Make a Difference
Choosing the right mediator can make a vital difference between a successful dispute resolution and costly and ineffective litigation.
Ann M. Goade is a certified Florida family mediator with over 35 years of experience dealing with family matters. Ms. Goade recognizes the risk factors for a divorce and understands all the nuances of a divorce-related dispute. Being aware that going to court can only make things worse, she is committed to bringing you the best possible mediation experience.
Successful divorce mediation is a firm foundation for a future co-parenting relationship and the overall well-being of both spouses. Using her sophisticated negotiation skills, Ms. Goade can help you peacefully resolve all disputed issues while achieving genuine reconciliation.