There’s a common misconception that all divorce cases end up before a judge. This isn’t necessarily true. And it’s something you want to avoid if possible because contested divorces take longer and are generally more costly.
Fortunately, various options exist that don’t require litigation. Referred to as Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), the most common strategy used in these cases is mediation. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about mediation and their answers.
What is Mediation?
When a couple divorces, there is usually conflict. A divorce can’t become final until the couple either settles their differences or has a judge do it for them.
Mediation is a method of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) that allows a couple to settle matters like asset division, parenting plans, child support, and spousal support. Mediation is facilitated by a third-party and, unlike a courtroom setting, is an informal process.
Is Mediation Required for My Divorce?
In most cases, you don’t have to agree to mediation. But both parties must be in agreement for it to happen. There are a few exceptions.
The family law courts in King and Snohomish counties require that divorcing parents use ADR for parenting plans and child support agreements. And mediation meets this requirement.
Why Should I Choose Mediation?
The best reason for choosing mediation in divorce is that it’s the simplest and most cost-effective action. As long you and your spouse can cooperate, the process is much faster than drawn-out litigation. By coming together to work out their differences, many couples also feel better about the final result because they were part of the process.
Is Mediation Legally Binding?
No, mediation isn’t legally binding. Even if you and your spouse settle your differences during mediation, that agreement must be put in writing and submitted to the court for approval before it becomes binding.
What Happens During Mediation?
Clients understandably want to know what will happen if they agree to mediation. It takes place in an office and is informal. The mediator starts by learning about the parties and the issues relevant to the case. There will likely be an agenda for the mediation so that every issue gets addressed.
Depending on the parties involved and the mediator, there may be a mutual discussion of the issues, or the mediator may speak with each party separately to negotiate a solution. Once each issue is resolved, the mediator will summarize the agreement in writing and ask both parties to sign.
How Long Does Mediation Usually Take?
Another reason to choose mediation is that it is usually a quicker process than litigation. Instead of enduring a lengthy trial, most mediations last just one or two days. Mediation appointments are scheduled to meet your needs, also offering additional convenience.
Is Mediation Confidential?
Yes. The mediation process is entirely confidential. Similar to the relationship with your family law attorney, you can have peace of mind knowing that the communication that happens during mediation will remain private. Nothing that is said will appear in legal or court documents. Any incidents of criminal actions or child abuse are exceptions.
If you have questions about your divorce or pursuing an alternative dispute resolution such as mediation, we can help. Contact Bighorse & Associates today for a free consultation. We are family law attorneys serving clients throughout Pierce, King, and Thurston counties.