Mediation is a voluntary dispute resolution process through which a neutral person facilitates the parties reaching an agreement. It is a process that many couples have successfully used to resolve the economic and child-related issues that arise from a separation or divorce. It holds the potential for being less costly and much less acrimonious than other dispute resolution processes, such as litigation and attorney-negotiation. The mediatorís facilitated and directed negotiations empower the parties to create their own agreement. They thereby become emotionally invested in their agreement, resulting in enhanced communication and a decreased likelihood of breaching in the future.
The issues couples face are (1) dividing their assets, liabilities, income, and expenses; and (2) apportioning responsibility for their children. The legal system categorizes these issues as:
Mediation provides a forum in which the couple, with the assistance and guidance of the mediator, negotiates how they want to resolve these issues. The mediator frames the various issues for discussion, facilitates the compilation and analysis of financial information, keeps the couple focused during their negotiations, and provides information with respect to family law and tax laws. The mediator serves as a facilitator and does not represent either spouse.
Through a series of two hour sessions, the couple works to resolve all of the economic and child-related issues that arise as a result of their contemplated divorce or separation. Each party should engage independent legal counsel for guidance and legal advice during the mediation process.
Upon completion of the mediation, the mediator will memorialize their agreement into a working draft of a Separation Agreement. The Separation Agreement is an important legal document that is typically filed with the Court. It is highly recommended that each spouse reviews the agreement with an attorney before signing it.
The cornerstones of mediation are commitment and trust. In order for mediation to succeed, each party must be committed to the process, as it is a voluntary process. Further, each party must trust that the other will disclose all assets and income in which he or she has any interest.