Negotiations during the divorce process can be complex, lengthy, and stressful, especially when minor children are involved or the couple shares multiple assets. Failing to come to an agreement can result in a public and costly court battle, which still may not lead to a fair resolution. When a couple agrees to use mediation, which may be required in some instances, there are a variety of benefits for all involved.
What is Mediation?
Before a divorce can be finalized, the parties must either agree to the terms of the divorce, or they will have to go to court and have a ruling on those issues. Mediation is a private process designed to resolve differences and reach agreements with the help of a neutral third party in a safe environment.
Any and all issues related to divorce can be resolved through mediation. These include:
- Parenting plans – where your children will live and the visitation schedule with the non-custodial parent.
- Child support – child support payments that adhere to the state’s guidelines.
- Spousal support – a fair agreement for spousal support that meets the state’s requirements.
- Separation of assets – a decision on what will happen with the family’s home, assets, and debts.
The Mediator’s Role
Your mediator is a disinterested third party whose goal is to help everyone reach a fair resolution. The mediator guides communication during the process and ensures that each party:
- Has the opportunity to be heard
- Shows respect for the other’s feelings and values
- Explores solutions to the disagreements in question
The mediator is not someone that will give legal advice or decide who is right or wrong. They might provide an opinion when asked but will never make decisions for you.
How is Mediation Different from Court?
Mediation is an informal process with the goal of settling differences. When you go to court, you must present your case in front of a judge, which involves a good deal of preparation and cost. What the judge decides is final, and you’ll have to live with the order once it is signed.
In most instances, both parties must agree to mediation. But this isn’t always the case in Washington. In Snohomish and King counties, couples must satisfy an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) requirement if they have minor children. And mediation satisfies this requirement.
Is Mediation Right for You?
For many divorcing couples, there’s no downside to choosing mediation. A benefit of this option is that you can stop the mediation process at any time. If you aren’t satisfied with the mediation results, you can choose to take your case to court.
Having an attorney present during mediation is always a good idea. Your legal counsel can explain the various options and make sure that you agree to a deal that is in your best short and long-term interests.
If you are considering divorce and want to avoid a contentious court battle, you can benefit from mediation. As long as both parties are able to communicate, mediation is an excellent means to resolve the issues related to ending a marriage.
At Bighorse & Associates, we understand that divorce is stressful, and our goal is to advocate for your interests throughout the process. Contact our Tacoma office today to learn more about our services.