Potential Benefits of Divorce Mediation
Divorce mediation is a process of resolving disputes by engaging a neutral third party who acts as a facilitator, assisting the divorcing spouses in reaching an agreement.
This is a voluntary process, meaning both parties must agree in order for it to occur. Unlike arbitration, the mediator is not empowered to make any decisions. Because mediators are by definition "neutral", they should not give legal advice to either party during the process. Divorce mediation is an alternative, or option meaning the parties can choose instead of litigating their disputes and having the outcome decided by a judge.
4 Benefits of Mediation
There are a number of potential benefits or advantages that can be realized by a divorcing couple who choose to resolve their disputes by engaging in mediation. One of the primary benefits is that the process of addressing all issues in a divorce can occur more quickly in mediation rather than litigation. For example, in the Maricopa County Superior Court of the State of Arizona, processing a contested dissolution action through the court system can take eight months to years, depending on the nature and complexity of the disputed issues. With mediation, the process might take less than 90 days depending on the complexity of the issues and whether professional valuation opinions are needed.
The potential for saving a significant amount of money is also one of the benefits of choosing mediation in a divorce. Not only are the attorney fees typically less, the amount of time that will be spent mediating rather than litigating the issues is usually significantly less.
Additionally, mediation offers a process that is more convenient to the parties. The parties and their counsel have the flexibility of making appointments with the mediator based on their schedules. Mediations typically occur in the mediator's offices rather than in the courthouse.
One of the greatest advantages of resolving issues in mediation is that the parties control the outcome, meaning that any results are the product of an agreement rather than having a judge decide the outcome which often results in there being perceived "winners" and "losers". This is not meant to suggest that agreements are easy to come by or that there are not difficult compromises that each party may have to make in order to reach an agreement. The outcome is still the product of an agreement instead of being imposed on the parties against their will.
Hepful for the Children
Often mediation is beneficial for the parties' children. It allows parents to structure individualized agreements addressing each parent's specific concerns and the particular needs of their children. In mediation, parents are not forced to take harsh public positions against each other and the possibility for co-parenting in a cooperative manner following the divorce is enhanced as result.
Overall, the parties have an opportunity to be creative in structuring their outcome in mediation as compared to what might occur when a judge makes a decision.
While each of these are benefits associated with engaging in mediation to resolve issues in a dissolution proceeding rather than litigating them to a conclusion, mediation is not always a good alternative for everyone. A person's individual circumstances and the nature of the parties relationship with each other needs to be examined before mediation is chosen as an alternative.
There are other important factors that tend to increase the probability of not only a successful mediated resolution but also a fair result. Some of these are addressed in an article I previously wrote, "Successfully Employing Mediation to Settle Issues in Your Divorce".
About the author: Mitchell Reichman is an Arizona State Bar Board Certified Family Law Specialist and attorney at the Phoenix law firm of Jaburg Wilk. He is a Board Member of the Executive Council of the Family Law Section of the State Bar and rated AV Preeminent by Martindale Hubbell. Mitch has been named a "Best Lawyer in America" by Best Lawyers, "Arizona Top 10 Family Law Lawyer" by Arizona Business Magazine and a "Southwest Super Lawyer." Now in his thirty-first year of practice, Mitch seeks to maximize the probability of each of his clients obtaining a favorable outcome in his or her family law conflict.
This article is not intended to provide legal advice and it only relates to Arizona law. It does not consider the scope of law in the states other than Arizona. Always consult an attorney for legal advice concerning your particular situation.