One of the most common questions we get about divorce is “Do we have to go to court to get a divorce?” We are happy to report that you do not. Court is only the last resort to dissolve a marriage. If the parties are able to come to an agreement on all aspects of the divorce on their own, the terms that they have agreed to can simply be submitted to the court for approval, bypassing the need for any further court involvement. This allows the couple to maintain the maximum amount of control over the outcome, and arrive at mutually agreeable terms. Divorce mediation makes this possible.
- What is divorce mediation?
Divorce mediation is an alternative to having the court decide all issues relating to your divorce, instead allowing you and your spouse to arrive at mutually agreeable terms with the help of a trained mediator over a number of sessions. Both spouses can have lawyers throughout the mediation process to ensure that their interests are advocated for and protected. All matters from property distribution to child custody can be negotiated and settled in this manner.
- Who benefits most from divorce mediation?
Most couples who utilize divorce mediation say that they have benefitted in a number of ways that they would not have had they pursued a traditional divorce in court. Parents who have shared children and will have to continue to co-parent have a vested interest in learning to productively settle disputes and keep the divorce amicable. Couples who have limited assets and wish to preserve their marital assets versus depleting them in court will also likely benefit.
- Who serves as the divorce mediator?
You and your spouse may select an experienced divorced mediator, or your lawyer or a judge may recommend one to you. The divorce mediator may be a licensed attorney, former judge, social worker, or marriage counselor who is trained in conflict resolution.
- What does the divorce mediator do?
The divorce mediator serves as a neutral third-party, ensuring that each party is heard and that their interests are addressed. They are trained in dispute resolution and know how to guide even highly contentious couples to mutually agreeable solutions over time. Once the parties have arrived at mutually agreeable terms, the divorce mediator will draft them and each party can have them reviewed by their attorney (if they so choose) before submitting them to the court.
- Are there times when divorce mediation should not be used?
Divorce mediation is effective in most situations. However, it is likely not appropriate in cases where the parties have a history of domestic violence, where there is an overwhelming power dynamic, where one or both parties have been accused of child abuse, or where one party has a history of fraudulent or dishonest behavior or has hidden or attempted to hide assets.
- How long does the process of divorce mediation take?
Like divorces that take place in court, the length depends entirely on the complexity of the case, the amount of assets involved, the number of decisions that have to be made, and the degree of contention between the parties. On average, a divorce may be mediated over the course of four two-hour sessions spread out over the course of one or two months.
- Will divorce mediation cost less than a traditional divorce?
Litigation is expensive, and most lawyers charge their highest rate for time spent in court. For this reason, the more you are able to limit the amount of time spent in court, the more money you will save. Some studies have found divorce mediation to cost 10 times less than a traditional divorce. However, it is also important to consider the emotional costs that going to court and having a more contentious and public divorce may have not only on you but on any involved children. Additionally, having more control over the outcome may save you assets that may otherwise have been distributed to your ex-spouse had the matter been decided in court. For many, the benefit of having more control over the outcome and not leaving personal decisions in the hands of a judge who does not know them is a significant factor.
- Are some cases too complicated for mediation?
It is unlikely that a case is too complicated for mediation. Mediation strategies can be tailored to your individual needs and relevant experts can be called upon as needed. Of course, this may extend the amount of sessions needed to arrive at a decision, however, highly complex divorces would also take more time to litigate in court. If it becomes clear that a matter cannot be resolved through mediation then the parties can move to court.
- What if we cannot reach an agreement on all issues through mediation?
Divorce mediation is usually successful, however, if there are certain terms that the parties decide they cannot reach a decision on through mediation, those terms can be litigated in court and decided on by a judge. Any issues that the parties were able to agree upon will still be drafted and submitted to the court, leaving only the contended provisions to be decided. Even if one or two issues cannot be settled, mediation therefore still significantly reduces the amount of time that the parties had to spend in court.
- Is a mediated divorce agreement enforceable?
Yes. Once the parties have agreed to the terms, the mediator will draft them. The parties can then have their lawyers independently review them if they so choose. The divorce agreement will then be submitted to the court for approval and will be enforced like any other divorce decree.
Contact the Covington Law Firm
If you are considering divorce or are currently going through a divorce in Texas, and believe that divorce mediation may be right for you, the experienced divorce mediators at the Covington Law Firm in Richmond, Texas can provide the compassionate and comprehensive support that you need to reach an amicable divorce agreement as painlessly and efficiently as possible. Contact the Covington Law Firm today to schedule a consultation.