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What couples should know about divorce mediation

The divorce process can be difficult for everyone involved, especially when there are issues the couple does not agree about. Divorce mediation is becoming an increasingly popular way to tackle disputes without resorting to full-scale litigation.

Understanding the basics of the mediation process can help a couple figure out whether this path is right for their situation.

An outline of the process

In mediation, a neutral third party with knowledge of family law and negotiation techniques acts as a facilitator to help the parties communicate and compromise. The mediator can help the divorcing couple move towards an agreement by helping them define their goals, identify areas where they are ready to compromise and de-escalate negative emotions. Once the parties reach an agreement, their attorneys can draft and review the document and submit it to the court for approval.

The mediator has no power to order the parties to do anything. Thus, he or she cannot make them accept any terms or produce evidence. The process depends on the willingness and ability of the couple to work towards a consensus. If they are unable to reach an agreement and further negotiations will likely remain unproductive, the couple may proceed with the traditional process in court.

Even people who are very angry with one another and who face serious problems can have a productive mediation. In many cases, the parties remain in separate rooms while the mediator goes back and forth between them.

Potential benefits

Generally, mediation costs less and takes less time than pursuing a divorce in court. In addition, because the process is based on striving for agreement rather than conflict, it can often help the parties deal with their emotions constructively. This can benefit not just the parties themselves, but also their children, who often feel a great deal of stress during the divorce.

When mediation may not be right

Attorneys and mediations often recommend against mediation in situations where one party does not act in good faith, as mediation has few protections against a spouse who hides assets or makes false statements. Some types of relationships can also lead to dysfunction in mediation, so it is important to examine all aspects of the situation when making the decision.

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