Divorce Mediation: Pros and Cons

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Have you heard about divorce mediation?

It’s a less contentious way to dissolve a marriage and can work beautifully for couples who already agree on most major issues. Divorce mediation might be right for you, but let’s be clear; it’s not for everyone.

When a divorcing couple chooses mediation, they agree not to use individual lawyers. Rather, they rely on a mediator to help them reach decisions together – in a cooperative, rather than combative, manner. That means the couple should be in basic agreement concerning the division of assets, who keeps the family home, child custody and conservatorship, who (if anyone) is at fault, and whether there will be support payments.

The Pros and Cons of Divorce Mediation

To determine if divorce mediation might be right for you, it’s important to understand that there are pros and cons to this route. You must be honest about your situation and goals, and then weigh them against the pros and cons of the process.

Pros of Divorce Mediation

  • Faster process
  • Cost-effective
  • Confidential
  • Solution-focused
  • Relaxed and impartial, and
  • More control over the outcome

Cons of Divorce Mediation

  • Parties must share the cost
  • No legal advice is given
  • Possibility of a power struggle
  • No guaranteed outcome

The Mediation Process

Unlike divorce through litigation, mediation is much more flexible. Each mediator will have their own method and style, but the basic process is almost always the same.

When you first decide on a divorce mediator, you and your spouse will likely each have an initial phone call with the mediator, or a member of their staff, to provide basic background information about the divorce. The marriage, key issues, and family size and dynamics will likely be addressed.

After the first call, an in-person meeting will be scheduled between all parties involved. This means that you and your spouse will meet with the mediator together. It’s important, then, to find a San Antonio mediator who is familiar with the local court system and Texas family laws.

The initial meeting is generally not held to discuss specifics. In other words, it’s likely that nothing will really be settled or resolved at this meeting. It’s more like a pre-mediation meeting where the mediator will describe his or her process, tell you what to expect, and explain how to get the most out of it. It’s an important part of the process.

It’s also your opportunity to determine if the mediator is truly a good fit. He or she should be working to establish some rapport with both parties, showing a neutral disposition, and making you both feel comfortable. All of this will go a long way towards a successful divorce mediation.

After the initial meeting, the real negotiating begins. Most divorce mediations are handled in 2-hour increments, over the course of several weeks or months. This gives the mediator the opportunity to work with you on one issue at a time, with breaks in-between. This can help to take the emotion out of decision-making and ensure that all parties involved are giving real thought to their dialogues and agreements.

The Role of Attorney’s in Divorce Mediation

By nature, divorce attorneys are usually not present at a divorce mediation to represent any one party. Remember, the goal of mediation is to negotiate agreements with as little legal interference as possible. This helps guarantee that the parties are communicating directly with each other, rather than through lawyers, and it also helps keep costs down.

That said, the presence of lawyers is something that should be discussed and agreed upon by the divorcing couple and the mediator. In some cases, it may be practical and advantageous. At no point should one party have an attorney present, and not the other, though. This can lead to an imbalance of power and threaten the success of the process.

Getting Started

At the initial meeting, after your mediator has gone over the essentials, the next step will be to create a plan. The mediator should have a brief, private discussion about the marriage with each of you and ask clarifying questions. The two discussions will then be compared so that the mediator can determine where the parties agree, where you disagree, and establish what the goals of the mediation process will be.

At this point, the mediator should make a detailed list of the issues that need to be negotiated, such as the personal home, business matters, or the splitting of funds. With this list, you’ll each have an opportunity to go home and collect any information that might help with negotiations, such as bank statements, appraisals, etc.

At the next session, mediation will officially begin with a clear plan and specific goals in place.

Negotiating the Agreement

Like any negotiation, divorce mediation should be a back-and-forth.

A good mediator will start with the simple items first. Knocking a few things off the list right away, especially items that you can agree on easily, is a mood-booster and trust-builder and can set the tone for the rest of the process.

As you begin negotiating the more complex or contentious items, it will be important not to rush. Sometimes an item must be put on the back-burner for a moment until you can both gather more information, or take a break from the subject to let your emotions cool down.

Most importantly, you must be a good listener and keep an open mind. Remember, mediation is supposed to be about compromise, not win or lose. Hear your spouses concerns and ideas. Rather than trying to get what you want, try to focus on solutions that benefit both of you.

Finishing the Agreement

Once you and your spouse have reached an agreement about each of the issues, an official agreement will be drafted. Usually, this is done by the mediator or a neutral divorce attorney with knowledge of family laws. If applicable, a parenting schedule and/or parenting plan will also be included with the agreement. Once signed, all these documents will be added to your divorce paperwork and submitted to the Bexar County Family Courts.

At this point, the courts enter the process to finalize the divorce and provide an official divorce judgment. This legally ends the marriage and makes your mediated agreement enforceable if either party violates it in the future. However, it should be noted that most mediated divorce agreements are respectfully honored and adhered to due to the cooperative nature of mediation.

Finding the Right Mediator

Finding the right mediator should also be cooperative. The mediator should be impartial, first and foremost, which means they should not have worked with either spouse at any point in the past.

Other issues to consider when looking for a mediator:

  • Experience with all aspects of family law
  • Impeccable listening skills, and
  • A track record of successful divorce mediations

How Espronceda Law Can Help

If you’re in the San Antonio area and would like to explore the possibility of divorce mediation, Espronceda Law is Bexar County’s expert divorce mediation firm. Our focus is on cost-effective and fair solutions so that you can both peacefully move on with your new lives.

Call us today for a free consultation.

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