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Private Mediation vs. Court-Ordered Divorce Mediation

divorce mediation

Divorces that have to go through litigation can be time-consuming and can wear on you. These are the cases that end up going to trial where the court will make the decisions for the issues regarding your divorce. The judge will be the one who determines spousal support, parenting time, property division, etc. As you can imagine, this ends up leaving you with little control over what happens in your divorce, even when you have an attorney. However, divorce mediation is a reasonable option depending on your situation.

Mediation Is a Better Option

Many people have opted for mediation instead of litigation. Most divorces can be settled with a bit of work, which provides you and your ex with full control over what happens with all of those issues mentioned above. Mediation is a good alternative to going to court.

With mediation, a certified mediator who has training in dispute resolution will help you and your ex come to agreements on the various issues of your divorce. The mediator could be a family law attorney, or they could be a mental health professional, for example. Regardless, they will be a neutral third party.

When working with a mediator, the spouses are each supposed to provide the mediator with the facts and documents needed to help solve the issues. They need to provide this information ahead of time, so the mediator has time to go over the info. The spouses will then meet with the mediator—often several times—as they try to hash out agreements for the various issues in their divorce.

If they can agree on things, they will create a marital settlement agreement, which will be added to their final divorce decree. Often, spouses will be able to reach agreements on all aspects of their divorce. This requires some give and take and willingness to compromise, of course. Still, most feel that it’s a better solution than letting the judge decide everything for them.

What If You Can Only Agree on Some Things

Mediation can help many couples come to agreements on certain aspects of their divorce but not others. What happens in these cases? All of the areas where you do agree can be put into the settlement agreement. For those issues that are outstanding, you can then go to court and have the judge decide on them. Keep in mind that mediation and negotiations can occur at any phase of the divorce case up until the trial and the final decree is provided.

The Difference Between Private Mediation and Court-Ordered Mediation

The process of mediation is the same regardless of whether it was something you and your spouse have done with a private mediator or if you go through the courts for divorce mediation. However, there are some differences you will want to know about first.

Private Mediation

When you go through private mediation, you and your spouse are volunteering to try to reach an agreeable solution to your divorce issues. Many people start this process before they even initiate the divorce, as it can help them to save quite a bit of time and money. When you can reach agreements, the court will consider your case to be an uncontested divorce, which means it tends to go through quickly once you have filed your divorce petition and have waited the requisite 60-day cooling-off period.

One of the things to note about private mediation is that you and your spouse will be the one who pays the mediator. In most cases, the spouses will split the cost of the mediator between them equally. However, depending on the financial situation of each party, one may decide to pay more than the other.

You could have an attorney represent you when you are going through private mediation if you would like. However, many mediators prefer that the attorneys aren’t present during the divorce mediation sessions. They feel that having an attorney there could elevate tensions between the spouses.

Court-Ordered Mediation

Court-ordered mediation begins after the divorce is already underway. The court may decide that they want to see whether you and your spouse can come to agreements on different matters in your divorce before it goes to litigation. This helps to reduce the amount of congestion in the courts.

This could be ordered when the parties do not have attorneys or when they are unable to afford to pay for private mediation. Another term for this is alternative dispute resolution. It works similarly to private mediation and there is still a neutral third party who will conduct the settlement conference.

You and your spouse will not be able to choose the divorce mediator. The court will pick the mediator from their list. You will receive a date and time to meet with the mediator. One of the major advantages of using this method is that you will not have to pay for the mediator.

Which Is Better?

This is a difficult question to answer because the goal of both types of mediation is the same. However, many find that private mediation is generally the best solution because it’s something that both of the spouses have agreed to. They are already in the frame of mind to want to settle and agree on as many things in the case as possible. Even though you have to pay for the private mediator now, it will typically save you a lot of money in attorney’s fees and court costs later.

Court-ordered divorce mediation has the benefit of being free, but it often comes at a point in the divorce where you are already so upset with your spouse that reaching agreements becomes more difficult.

Talk with an Attorney

Even though your attorney might not be with you during the divorce mediation meetings, talking with an attorney can be a huge benefit. They can give you a better idea of what to expect, and they can let you know what types of agreements are reasonable and that could work for your case. It’s also good to have an attorney in case you can’t reach a settlement agreement and end up going through litigation. If you’ve been through mediation and are looking for a quick and affordable way to get divorced, research a simple flat fee divorce and what it entails, or contact us directly if you’re in Arizona.

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