When we were children, most of us couldn’t wait to grow up. It wasn’t so much the responsibilities of adulthood that we were after, but the ability to have control over the details of our lives. We wanted to set our own bedtimes, choose our own clothes, and eat what we wanted. Adulthood may not have turned out to be as fun and freeing as we hoped, but having control over our lives is worth it. Of course, when we were children, we weren’t considering the prospect of divorce and divorce mediation.
Of course, there are events that can make life seem out of control, even for adults. One of those is divorce. Suddenly the future you dreamed of and planned for is gone, and you are subject to a court order that divides your property, tells you when you can spend time with your children, and may order you to pay support. The feeling of having little control over the process is one of the things that makes divorce so challenging for those going through it.
However, not all divorce processes are created equal, and some processes, like divorce mediation, offer you more control over your divorce—and your future—than others.
The state of Utah believes so strongly in the benefits of divorce mediation that all divorcing couples are required to participate in good faith in at least one mediation session before their divorce can move forward to trial. However, many couples choose to resolve all issues in their divorce through mediation, which may take multiple sessions.
In mediation, the divorcing spouses and their attorneys meet with a neutral third party who facilitates discussion on the unresolved issues in the divorce and helps the parties explore options for resolution. In most circumstances, the spouses are in different rooms. The mediator does not advocate for one spouse or the other, nor does she make a decision for them. Instead, she guides them toward a mutually agreeable solution of their own design.
If the parties reach an agreement, a stipulation is drafted and signed by all parties and then a final order is prepared for the court’s signature. If the parties can’t agree, the mediator will let the court know so the couple can proceed with a litigated divorce.
As mentioned above, one of the greatest benefits of divorce mediation is that it gives you control over the terms of your divorce. Many people are eager to have their “day in court,” certain that the judge will see their side of things and give them everything they want. In reality, the judge is unlikely to do that. What’s more, the judge can’t know your family’s needs as well as you do.
With divorce mediation, you have the flexibility to devise creative solutions that work for your family’s unique needs. If you and your spouse have odd work schedules, for instance, you can craft a parent time arrangement that accommodates that.
Divorce mediation is also a less adversarial process than litigation. Instead of opposing each other, you and your spouse are tasked with finding solutions that work for you both. Trying to find the “win-win” through mediation is a lot less stressful than litigation, which can feel like a zero-sum game.
Because it’s less adversarial than litigation, mediation promotes a more agreeable relationship between you and your spouse, as well as better communication and joint problem-solving. All of that is important if you have children together. You will still have to work together to raise them, and having a cordial relationship will make future birthdays, school events, and the eventual graduations and weddings more pleasant for everyone.
Another advantage of mediation is that because you are in control of setting the terms of your divorce agreement, you are more likely to abide by them. That means greater satisfaction with your divorce settlement, and less time spent back in court trying to enforce or change it.
Divorce mediators charge an hourly fee for mediation services. Depending on the mediator’s experience and training, the fee for a typical three-to-four-hour session can range from a few hundred dollars to over a thousand. This fee will usually be split between you and your spouse unless you agree otherwise.
However, rather than looking at the cost of mediation as something else you have to pay, think about what it could save you. If mediation helps you to settle your divorce, you have saved hours and hours of attorney fees that you would have spent to litigate—that could be thousands of dollars. In addition, if mediation helps you to maintain good relations with your ex so that you can successfully co-parent (and stay out of court going forward), well, that’s priceless.
If you are interested in learning more about divorce mediation, or have questions that weren’t answered in this blog post, we invite you to contact Barton Wood to schedule a consultation. We can help you take control of your divorce through mediation.