A divorce is likely to be one of the most stressful and difficult experiences of your life, so it is natural to want to do everything possible to make the process of ending your marriage easier for yourself. Every divorce is unique and will entail different issues. Some couples can agree on some aspects of divorce and fight bitterly over others, and the process will unfold differently for every couple that experiences it. However, one common thread among all divorces is the potential value that divorce mediation can provide.
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution that provides divorcing spouses the chance to privately negotiate their divorce terms in a low-pressure setting. Instead of enduring a protracted court battle and leaving the outcome of a divorce entirely in the hands of a judge, the divorcing spouses can meet privately with a mediator and negotiate their own divorce agreement.
Why You Should Avoid Divorce Litigation
If you are wondering why you should want to take advantage of divorce mediation, it’s important to consider what the litigation process would entail for you. When a couple moves to litigate their divorce, the process unfolds similarly to the way most other civil cases proceed. The two parties will meet in court with their respective legal teams; a judge will consider their statements and the evidence they present and deliver a ruling based on their assessments and interpretations of applicable state divorce statutes.
The litigation process is notoriously stressful, time-consuming, and expensive for both divorcing spouses. Complicated divorce cases can take months to resolve in court, and both spouses will end up paying tremendous legal fees the longer a case continues. Additionally, the courtroom experience can be incredibly daunting for some people.
Benefits of Mediation
The main benefit of choosing divorce mediation is that it allows a divorcing couple to avoid the stress and expense of litigation. Other important benefits of divorce mediation include:
- Expediency. Mediation is generally much faster than litigation. While litigation can take several months to conclude, mediation generally takes only a few weeks to complete.
- Privacy. Mediation sessions are entirely private and confidential. By comparison, everything said during all courtroom proceedings becomes public record when you litigate. Most divorce cases will require discussion of personal topics, and the privacy afforded by mediation alone is often enough to encourage divorcing spouses to explore this option for alternative dispute resolution.
- Savings. Mediation will take much less time to complete than litigation, and your attorney will likely need to work less overall to help you see it through. In litigation, your attorney will spend a lot of time drafting pre-trial motions, preparing you for cross-examination, and handling procedural issues. Most people will spend much less on legal fees when they choose mediation.
- Control. When you litigate a divorce, the judge has the final say on every aspect of your divorce order. While you may achieve some of your personal goals through litigation, you ultimately have no say in the outcome. Mediation allows divorcing spouses to reach more personalized results in their divorces, and they have much more control over the outcome.
Hopefully, this list of benefits encourages you to consider the potential value of mediation as you approach your divorce case. Some divorcing couples may find it hard to imagine negotiating with their spouses, but ultimately mediation offers a much easier way forward in almost every divorce case, saving you time, money, and stress during what is likely to be one of the most challenging phases of your life.
What Happens If We Can’t Cover Every Issue in Mediation?
Some divorces are more complex than others, and you and your spouse may encounter roadblocks that you cannot overcome through mediation. Some divorces entail complex assets, sensitive issues such as domestic violence, and prenuptial contracts that will require formal legal review in litigation. If you aren’t sure whether you will be able to handle every aspect of your divorce in mediation, don’t worry; it’s possible to negotiate some aspects of your divorce in mediation before moving to litigation to handle the rest. This will significantly cut the time and expense required for your divorce and ultimately streamline things.
Your attorney can provide valuable guidance as you navigate your mediation sessions. For example, if you and your spouse start negotiating one aspect of your divorce and find that you cannot reach mutually agreeable terms, your respective attorneys may agree to table this discussion for the time being and move onto other topics. You can effectively use mediation to privately negotiate as much of your divorce as possible to minimize the amount of time you must spend in litigation.
Mediation and Child Custody/Support in Kansas City
No matter how agreeable you and your spouse are toward one another in mediation, the two aspects of a divorce that cannot be settled in mediation are child custody and child support. The family court of Missouri must ensure any divorce agreement involving children suits the best interests of those children. You and your spouse can draft a proposal for your custody and support terms in mediation, and your attorneys can provide guidance as to what the court is most likely to consider the best interests of your children. However, there is no guarantee a family court judge will approve the parenting plan the two of you develop.
Once mediation concludes, divorcing parents will need to submit their proposed divorce terms to the family court for a final review and approval from a judge. When it comes to child custody and child support, the judge must examine the proposed parenting plan and make an assessment based on what they know of the divorcing parents. The judge might approve a parenting plan as-is or require a few minor alterations to suit the court’s interpretation of the best interests of the children.
Ultimately, divorce mediation offers several significant benefits to any divorcing couple, but the process still requires a great deal of preparation. If you are ready to explore your options for handling your divorce case, it’s a good idea to reach out to an experienced Kansas City, MO, divorce attorney as soon as possible to learn more about what mediation entails and what you can expect from your divorce case.