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Divorce might never be easy, but it doesn’t have to be as messy as you might think. Mediation could help to reduce conflict and cost in your divorce in Arizona, which should be music to everyone’s ears. Additionally, there could even be times when a judge requires mediation between you and your spouse. If you don’t know much about mediation, how it works, or whether it might be right for you, read on to learn more about this area.

What Is Divorce Mediation?

Let’s start by answering the most basic question. Divorce mediation is a process where you and your spouse talk with a trained mediator about the issues involved with your divorce. The mediator is neutral and will not take sides. Rather, they are there as an intermediary who can help to facilitate better communication. They can look at the problem from different perspectives to help you and your spouse reach agreements in difficult areas. This might include help working out things such as:
  • Property division
  • Parenting time
  • Spousal support
It’s important to realize that the mediators are not going to provide you with legal advice, and they are not the ones who make decisions about your divorce. They can help to ensure the process stays peaceful and can ensure it’s easier to make actual progress on certain elements of the divorce where you and your spouse don’t agree. Most of the time, mediation will take place informally in an office setting. However, some mediators can provide online services for those who prefer this avenue of communication. If you are working with an attorney, they are likely going to be present at the mediation, as well.

The Benefits of Mediation

Why would you want to try mediation? You will find that mediation services can provide a range of potential benefits to both you and your spouse.

A Lower Cost

The first thing many people think about when it comes to the details of a divorce will be the cost. This process has the potential to be expensive. However, mediation can cut the cost substantially. The cost of a divorce could quickly balloon to well over $10,000 or $20,000. Mediators can help you to avoid many of those costs. The sooner you can reach agreements the more affordable the mediation will be. Also, since you and your ex can split the cost of mediation, it can bring the price down even further.

Faster Settlements

A divorce that has to go through litigation can a long time to finish in the courts. Some can last well over a year. Most people don’t have that kind of time or energy to devote to a divorce. The more disagreements there are the longer the divorce is going to take. However, with mediation, the timeline tends to be much faster. You will still have to wait at least 60 days, but when you go through mediation, it’s often possible to have things taken care of in a matter of a couple of months.

Maintain a Respectful Relationship

One of the problems of divorce is that things tend to get messy and mean when it drags on for a long time. It can be easy to start fighting and have an irreparable relationship, which is a huge problem when you are still co-parenting. Fortunately, though, mediation helps to make communication a little easier. It helps to ensure more respect and calmness during the meetings, which tends to be better for all involved. This doesn’t mean that things won’t get emotional or that you won’t be angry, but it can help to keep those emotions in check.

Agreeable Solutions

When you agree to mediation, it means you are likely willing to compromise. You can negotiate and agree or disagree with the terms. You can work with your spouse, through the mediator, to find options that can work well for both of you. It is often easier to find ways to compromise when you have someone who can help you see the benefits.

It Is Confidential

One of the other benefits of going through mediation is that everything that happens will be confidential. This is true whether it is voluntary or ordered by the court. No one is allowed to disclose anything that was written or said during the process except for the signed and written agreements that are made. There are, of course, some other exceptions to this rule. For example, if there is potential abuse, court-appointed mediators are required to report it. If both spouses agree to the disclosure, then it will be allowed, as well.

You Make the Decisions, Not the Court

Who do you feel will make better decisions about what should happen in your divorce, you or the courts? If you can’t reach agreements in your case, you won’t have a choice. The judge will be the one that makes the final judgment. Mediation puts this power in the hands of you and your ex.

When Can Divorce Mediation Be Used?

You and your spouse can opt to try mediation at any point in the divorce process. This includes before, during, or even after the divorce. We’ll get a closer look at what this looks like below.

Before Filing for Divorce

Many feel that this is the best time to start the mediation process. If you and your spouse can use the mediator to reach agreements, you could even file for an uncontested divorce. This is a fast and streamlined process that can help you get through the divorce quickly and relatively easily. The mediator can help you and your spouse agree on how debts and property will be divided, parenting schedules, and other areas where disagreements will often occur.

During the Divorce

In those cases where you don’t start mediation before the divorce, don’t worry. It’s still possible to start mediation when you are undergoing a divorce. A lot of people become more open to the idea of mediation as the divorce proceeds and more information is found out during the discovery process.

After the Divorce

What about after a divorce? Yes, you can still have mediation since there could still be issues with your ex after the divorce has been finalized. For example, there may be issues with child support payments or issues with co-parenting. If you and your spouse are unable to agree on a modification order, you’ll want to consider mediation. It will help you avoid continual fights with your ex. Not only could those fights be emotionally taxing, but they also have the potential to be expensive.

Is Divorce Mediation Ever Required?

Although mediation tends to be a good idea, there are certain times when it might be required by the judge. This will typically happen when it comes to parenting time and legal decision-making with parents who can’t agree. If there are cases where parents are fighting and not working toward finding an agreement, a judge will often order parents to have those issues mediated. This can also be true of other types of cases that involve children, even if the parents are unmarried or are divorced. If you have been ordered to go through this type of mediation, you have two choices.
    1. You could opt to choose a private mediator, as normal.
    2. You could go through the mediation provided through the court, which is called conciliation services.
Going through the court-provided mediation services will typically be much cheaper, but you and your spouse don’t get the option of finding your own mediator. It is also possible for parents to request mediation sponsored by the court for custody issues before or after you file for divorce if you feel it will be needed.

Is Divorce Mediation Ever a Bad Idea?

Most of the time, mediation is a good option for a couple going through a divorce or child custody issues. However, this doesn’t mean that it’s the right solution for everyone for several reasons. In mediation, both spouses should feel comfortable being honest and talking about what they want from the divorce without the worry of reprisal. If you are in a situation where you are being pressured, abused, or bullied by your ex or those on their side, mediation tends not to be a good idea. This is because you could feel coerced into agreeing to things that you don’t want to happen. Whether there was recent abuse, a history of abuse, untreated substance abuse, or an imbalance of power between you and your spouse, you should avoid mediation. If you still want to go through mediation, there are some things you can do to increase your protection. For example, you could work with an attorney to help you with your case. You could also ask for protection through separate meetings or online mediation. What you never want to do is get into a situation where you feel as though you don’t have any say or power in the mediation. Everything should be on equal footing.

Choosing the Right Mediator

Mediation can be far more convenient than going through the courts to litigate your divorce. However, you need to be sure you handle mediation the right way. This starts with choosing the correct mediator for your divorce. The mediator needs to be someone that both you and your ex feel comfortable using. In some cases, attorneys are mediators. However, you have to keep in mind that your attorney can’t also be the mediator. You need a neutral third party. When choosing a mediator, make sure they have worked with cases similar to yours. Learn more about the processes they use and determine whether you feel they would be right for you and your spouse. Remember, you need to choose a mediator where both you and your spouse can agree.

Gather Your Information

Once you find a mediator you feel will be a good option, you need to gather all of your essential information. This includes information about assets, properties, debts, retirement accounts, disagreements about children, etc. Make note of all of the areas where you and your spouse disagree. These are going to be the points that come up in mediation. Be sure to make a list of any questions you might have, as well. If you have opted to work with an attorney, they can help you with this process. They can also help to ensure that you have all of the documentation you may need.

What Happens After Mediation?

After you go through mediation, the mediator will generally provide you with a memorandum of understanding. This will indicate the areas where you and your spouse were able to agree when you went through the process, and it can typically be used with your separation agreement. Of course, having a lawyer look it over for you, if they weren’t there during the mediation, is a good idea. You want to make sure that you fully understand the MOU and that all of your legal rights are still protected. If you went through mediation before filing for divorce, you will now file the paperwork. The exact procedures can vary slightly from one county to the next, so talk with the court clerk or an attorney to get the information you need when filing. Most of the time, you won’t even have to go to a hearing, but you will still have to wait the requisite 60 days before the final paperwork including the consent decree can go through. The 60 days is a cooling-off period in the event that a couple ends up deciding to stay together.

Get in Touch with an Attorney

When divorce is on the horizon, whether you will be going through mediation or not, it’s a good idea to reach out to a divorce attorney. The attorney can look at your situation from the perspective of someone who knows the laws in Arizona and who has seen situations similar to your own. They can provide you with some important advice and guidance at any stage of your divorce. If you feel that you might need to have the advice of an attorney, it tends to be best to engage their services as early as possible.

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