Should You Mediate Your Divorce in the Middle of Litigation?

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Mediation is an effective process for resolving divorce disputes, not only before you go to court, but at any point in the case. Notwithstanding how far you may be in the process, mediation can offer substantial benefits – particularly when it is court-appointed. It can save significant time, money and stress; enable you to regain control of the outcome of your case; and allow you to finally start your new life if the mediation is successful.

What Is Mediation?

Mediation is a voluntary process where the parties work with a neutral third-party mediator to negotiate a settlement. The mediator facilitates discussion between the parties and helps them find a compromise that meets their needs. Mediators do not take sides or decide cases. The parties can choose to resolve all or some of their conflicts and stop the process at any time. 

When Can Mediation Be Used?

Courts encourage parties to use mediation throughout the case to expedite the resolution. Typically, parties will try mediation early in the case but, if it doesn’t work, they oftentimes don’t attempt it again. However, the parties can ask the court to refer them for mediation at any time. The parties can also privately mediate their dispute and should notify the court in the event they proceed in that manner. As long as a party hasn’t demonstrated a total unwillingness to resolve even small issues, mediation should be considered.

Why Should You Try Mediation During Litigation?

If you have been arguing for months or longer, both your emotions and your wallet may be feeling the pain. Couples can grow more antagonistic as the divorce drags on resulting in bickering over even the most minor of issues. At the same time, the parties often grow more weary and feel trapped, wanting to end the battle but not knowing how to do it. They also become aware of increasing legal bills. If you and your spouse are feeling this way, it may be beneficial to try mediation, even if you are fully litigating your case, because either or both of you may be more open to negotiation and settlement now than you may have been earlier in your divorce.

How Do You Start the Mediation Process?

As noted previously, the parties can ask the court to refer them for mediation of any or all issues. The first session of a court-appointed mediation is at no cost. Thereafter, if the parties choose to continue, the mediator is paid an hourly fee. 

The parties can also hire a private mediator. It’s best to choose an attorney trained in mediation or a retired matrimonial judge.

If you use a mediation attorney, you should look for someone with courtroom experience in divorce actions. Their litigation experience can help set expectations for the parties if they are unable to settle and their matter goes to trial. Alternatively, a retired matrimonial judge may lack specific mediation training but he or she has impressive experience handling high-conflict situations. The judge can also explain how another judge may view the parties’ dispute and what actions that judge may take to resolve the matter if the parties don’t settle. 

While mediation isn’t right for every case, it should be considered when parties cannot negotiate a settlement on their own. Even if only a few issues can be resolved, it will save time and money litigating those matters.

If you are considering divorce, contact us to discuss your case. We can advise you regarding the best way to resolve your case and achieve a positive result that allows you to move forward in your life.

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