When you think about the divorce process, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? It might be the inside of a courtroom, or maybe a stack of confusing paperwork you know needs to get done. While that has often been the case, it doesn’t always have to be.
Divorce mediation can offer couples an alternative process for separating. Here are some instances in which a separating couple might want to consider mediation.
You still get along with your spouse
In some separations, both spouses agree it is time to move on from the marriage and there are little, if any, hard feelings between them. In these situations, talking through a separation agreement rather than litigating the divorce in court may be preferable. During mediation, spouses will discuss topics such as asset division and child custody, with the goal of reaching a compromise both sides are satisfied with.
You won’t be alone in a room with your spouse. At the bare minimum, a third-party mediator will be there to help facilitate the conversation and move toward a negotiated agreement. A mediator may be court-appointed or chosen by the couple. Each spouse may also choose to have an attorney there to help protect their interests and offer some direction.
You want something less time-consuming
Litigating a divorce can require numerous court dates, potentially stretching on longer than you’d like. While the time required to complete mediation can vary, it is usually a faster process than attending hearings or a potential trial. Each case is different, but mediation sessions may generally last a couple hours at a time and occur every few weeks.
In some cases you also may never have to step foot in a courtroom, and it’s possible the overall cost of mediation is less than the standard divorce process. In North Dakota specifically, couples who have a minor child may be able to get six hours of mediation for free through a state program. (Though keep in mind that does not cover the cost of an attorney if you choose to have one present.)
You want privacy
Mediation is a confidential process. There will be no public record of what you and your spouse discussed in the sessions. Those conversations will generally remain private even if you can’t come to an agreement and ultimately pursue divorce proceedings through the court.
This is the case even if attorneys are present. During mediation you are not required to have your own lawyer, though it might be something to consider if you want some extra certainty, or if there’s a particularly complex issue to hash out.
It is OK if divorce mediation is not right for you
There are a number of potential benefits to divorce mediation. That doesn’t mean the process is right for everyone. In some cases, mediation may not be the path to a successful separation, and it’s important to consider all your options – including what you’re comfortable with and what feels right – before making a decision which way to go.