Not all divorces need to be tried in court. Divorce mediation is an alternative the parties can choose instead of litigating their divorce in family law court and having the outcome decided by a judge. Mediation is a private process of resolving disputes by engaging a neutral third party who acts as a facilitator. Their role is to assist the divorcing couple to reach an agreement. In Arizona, mediation is a voluntary process, meaning that both parties must agree to engage in it. Unlike arbitration, the mediator is not empowered to make any decisions.
Potential Benefits of Divorce Mediation
Time – All divorce issues can be addressed more quickly in mediation. For example, in Arizona’s Maricopa County Superior Court, the time it takes to process a contested divorce can take between eight months to several years, depending on the nature and complexity of the disputed issues. With mediation, the process may take less than 90 days depending on the complexity of the issues and whether professional valuation opinions are needed.
Cost Savings – There is potential for saving a significant amount of money. Not only are the attorney fees typically less, but also the amount of time that will be spent mediating rather than litigating the issues is usually less.
Convenience – Mediation offers a process that is more convenient to the parties. The parties and their attorneys have the flexibility of making appointments with the mediator based on their schedules. Mediations typically occur in the mediator’s offices rather than at the courthouse.
Control – The parties control the outcome. The results are the product of an agreement between the parties rather than having a judge decide which may result in perceived “winners” and “losers”. Mediation provides an opportunity to be creative in structuring an agreement. This does not mean that agreements are easy to negotiate or that there are not difficult compromises that each party may need to make to reach an agreement. But, the outcome is still the product of an agreement instead of being imposed by a judge.
Children – It 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. Parents are not forced to take harsh public positions against each other and the possibility for cooperative co-parenting after the divorce is enhanced.
While there are many reasons and benefits to mediate to resolve issues in a divorce proceeding rather than litigating, mediation is not always a good choice for everyone. A person’s individual circumstances and the dynamics of the parties’ relationship with each other needs to be examined before mediation is chosen. There are other important factors that tend to increase the probability of not only a successful mediated resolution but also a fair result.