Over the past several years, divorce mediation has become the preferred method for handling the dissolution of a marriage in the US for numerous reasons. However, one reason stands out above the rest and is the primary reason many divorcing couples choose mediation. Divorce mediation, or alternative dispute resolution, offers the opportunity to avoid the typical expense and stress of the litigation process of divorce.
When a divorce case proceeds to trial, it may take months or years before it reaches any firm conclusions, all the while both parties will pay expensive legal fees. Mediation, by contrast, usually results in a shorter, less expensive divorce. However, it is vital to understand how this process works, potential drawbacks, and what to expect in your divorce case. Once you build an understanding of the process, you will find that mediation is a suitable option for many divorcing couples in Topeka, KS.
What Is Divorce Mediation?
Alternative dispute resolution in family court allows a divorcing couple to settle the terms of their divorce privately while maintaining more control over the outcome. The two spouses retain their respective attorneys and meet with a neutral mediator. This mediator does not provide any legal advice, as their job is to simply direct the negotiation and ensure the conversation stays on track. Once mediation concludes, the mediator will help the divorcing couple draft their divorce agreement and submit it to the Topeka, KS family court for final approval from a family court judge.
Benefits of Mediation
Mediation takes place on the divorcing couple’s terms, not the court’s. As a result, it is inherently a more relaxed atmosphere for the negotiations. As long as both spouses are willing to participate and have a civil discussion, the benefits of divorce mediation are significant and undeniable:
- Mediation is significantly cheaper than litigation. You are allowed to have your attorney present for some or all your mediation sessions, but your overall legal fees will be a fraction of what you would have paid in litigation. Even extended mediations for complicated divorces involving children or significant assets are usually less expensive than litigating your case in court. In most cases, this reduced cost directly correlates to the time and court costs necessary to litigate versus take part in mediation.
- You will spend far less time on your divorce overall when you choose mediation. When you take your divorce to court, you should not expect a resolution after a single court date or meeting with your attorney. You and your attorney will need to work hard between each court appearance to prepare for the next. Mediation, on the other hand, allows you and your spouse to work through your divorce issues one by one at your own pace, usually requiring far less time than you would have spent in litigation.
- Mediation is entirely private. When you litigate your divorce, everything said in the courtroom becomes public record, and anyone can access that record with relative ease. Many divorce proceedings include multiple sensitive topics that you and your spouse would rather keep private. This reason alone can be enough motivation for the two of you to take full advantage of alternative dispute resolution.
- When you mediate your divorce, much of the outcome remains in your hands. One of the most challenging aspects of dealing with divorce litigation is the fact that the judge has the final say. Mediation allows you and your spouse to negotiate a result that closely aligns with your individual needs and goals. By contrast, after litigation, a judge must rule along with strict legal statutes and may not take you or your spouse’s personal preferences into account when delivering the final divorce order.
Divorce mediation offers several significant advantages over traditional divorce litigation. However, a few caveats require consideration if you are unsure whether divorce mediation is the right option for you.
Potential Challenges in Divorce Mediation
One of the most significant challenges in divorce mediation typically appears before mediation even begins. Both spouses must be willing to explore mediation, or the process can never truly begin. If your spouse is combative and desires a trial, there may not be a way to avoid litigation. A good attorney will press for settlement whenever possible, but without willing participation from both spouses, mediation is not an option.
Another potential issue divorcing spouses might encounter is the fact that the courts will not allow full settlement of child care and custody issues during mediation. The Kansas family court has a legal duty to protect the best interests of any child affected by a divorce order. As a result, while divorcing parents can negotiate a parenting plan in mediation, they must submit this proposed plan to the family court so a judge can review and approve it. If their proposal aligns with state laws and the judge’s interpretations of the best interests of their children, the judge may approve the plan with few to no alterations. In other cases, a judge may completely reject a proposed parenting plan, and the parents will need to undergo a more intensive process for deciding child custody and child support.
It is also vital for anyone preparing for divorce mediation to understand that, while mediators are often skilled attorneys, a mediator cannot provide either parent with legal advice. As a result, you cannot expect to completely avoid legal fees by choosing mediation. It is still essential to obtain a legal representative who will look out for your best interests during your mediation sessions.
Find Reliable Legal Representation Today
Divorce can be an incredibly difficult experience, but it is a vital process for many couples in Topeka, KS. One of the most important steps you can take toward ensuring a positive outcome from your divorce mediation sessions is hiring the right divorce attorney to represent you. Your attorney can help you prepare for each mediation session and ensure that you do not agree to any unfair terms in the final agreement. Take the time to find a Topeka, KS divorce attorney with solid experience in the divorce mediation process so you can experience each of the benefits of alternative dispute resolution.