When a divorce ends up in court, the judge has to decide the issues most important to the family, and once a disputed issue goes before the judge, the judge has the power to make binding legal decisions on the issue. This includes for issues such as child custody and visitation, spousal support, child support, property division, and allocation of debts.
Because the outcome of a judge’s decision is unknown, it is almost always better for the divorcing couple to come to an agreement on these crucial issues privately, and divorce mediation can help couples reach those agreements. Although divorce mediation means that couples may have to compromise and neither party will get everything he or she wants, at least the parties are voluntarily agreeing on future matters, rather than having judge decide what is best.
At Kallen Law Firm, we offer divorce mediation for couples that want to avoid litigation – contact our St. Louis divorce lawyers today to learn more.
Litigation Is Never Guaranteed
Once a case goes before a judge, the outcome is never guaranteed. The law has certain guidelines for how issues are settled in a divorce, but the reason we have judges is to help interpret those laws and decide how the law applies in a specific case. Unfortunately, each judge may interpret the laws slightly differently, so litigation never guarantees a favorable outcome for any party. Divorce mediation may be a way to help ensure a more favorable outcome.
Issues that have been handled ahead of time through collaborative divorce, divorce mediation, or simply through couples making an agreement are, as a general rule, accepted by the courts without question. As long as both parties agree to the terms, the judge will normally agree as well. However when the decision is left up to a judge, both parties may find that they do not get what they want.
Is Divorce Mediation Right For You?
Sometimes a couple simply cannot handle the negotiation process productively on their own. Both parties are under tremendous stress, and it is natural to react with uncertainty, anger, grief, numbness, or many other strong emotional reactions to the situation. People under these circumstances may benefit greatly from divorce mediation; the most frequently used alternate dispute resolution method for family law matters.
How Divorce Mediation Works
In the mediation process, the couple hires a neutral third-part mediator who helps them to negotiate successfully. Both parties may still be represented by their respective attorneys, who can help them protect their legal rights. Divorce mediation may be undertaken voluntarily, but in some Missouri counties it may be required as part of the divorce process.
A mediator has received special training in peaceful conflict-resolution methods, and the mediator uses that training to help facilitate the couple's negotiation. For example, the mediator may help with mutual understanding, positive communication techniques, defining the issues at hand, gathering necessary outside information, and suggesting creative solutions.
Divorce mediation may involve different methods depending on the needs of the couple. For example, in highly contentious divorce mediation, each spouse may have his or her own room with the mediator moving between them to convey information.
Divorce Mediation Versus Litigation
In litigation, the goal is to “win”. For example, if the judge is asked to determine who gets the family home in a division of property, the judge will award the home to one party or the other. One party will “win”, and the other party will “lose”. However, in divorce mediation, the ultimate goal is to find a “win-win” solution. Mediation allows for more creative solutions to be proposed. For example, a divorce mediator might suggest selling the house and splitting the profit or the mediator might suggest that one party gets the house but the other party gets something else in return. Divorce mediation allows for greater flexibility and creativity, which is more likely to result in a positive outcome for both spouses.
Some of the positive aspects of divorce mediation include:
- Lower cost than litigation
- Both spouses are treated with more dignity and respect than in the litigation process
- There is a higher probability of creative solutions that might lead to a “win-win” scenario
- There is usually less hostility than in litigation
- The spouses have a greater level of control over the proceedings
- Mediation is usually less stressful than litigation
- Divorce mediation sets up a more peaceful foundation for future co-parenting
- Mediation usually provides greater privacy and confidentiality than litigation
If you have any questions regarding divorce mediation and if it is right for you, contact us today to speak with one of our St. Louis family law attorneys.