How does Mediation work for divorcing couples?
When couples are separating or divorcing, many decisions need to be made so that each of the parties can move forward in their life. Whether a couple has been married a few years or many years, has minor children or not, mediation can be a useful and cost-effective way to work through the many issues that must be addressed.
The major areas for decision making in a divorce include (1) creating parenting arrangements for any minor children of the marriage, (2) identifying and dividing the marital assets and debts, and (3) resolving any support issues for a spouse or children.
When parents are divorcing, they are frequently concerned about how their divorce will impact their children. We want our children to thrive. Mediation provides parents with the best opportunity to start out on the right foot by putting the needs of their children first. One of the ways we accomplish this is to create parenting arrangements for your children that provide a framework for how you will make decisions for your children in the future, how you will communicate with each other about your children, and when the children will spend time with each parent. As we create these parenting arrangements for your children in mediation, we focus on who your child is and what your child needs to thrive.
In mediation, we also focus on the job parents must continue to perform even though you no longer live together. Parents serve the needs of their children best when they work as a team. Mediation can help parents develop a more cooperative working relationship with each other at a difficult time in their lives. As you move from the role of husband and wife to your new role as co-parents, it can be challenging. Emotions can run high. The more cooperative your co-parenting relationship is, the better for your child. Continuing conflict between parents can negatively impact your children now and into the future. In mediation, we focus on developing and supporting a cooperative relationship for parents so their children can thrive.
Property and Debts
When we work on property and debt issues in divorce mediation, our first step is to think about what is important for each party as we go through this process. This can vary from couple to couple. For example, some couples may be most interested in making sure everything is done equally. Other couples may be most interested in insuring their children have the least disruption in their lives. Still other couples may be most interested in ensuring each party will be able to take care of themselves into the future. Whatever is most important for a you, is how we frame our work in mediation.
Mediation requires that divorcing couples make full and complete disclosure of all their assets, debts, income and expenses to each other. This is critical to the process of mediation. We need to be able to know and trust the information we are dealing with so the parties can make decisions. Participants begin this process by completing disclosure forms to identify all of their assets, debts, income and expenses. Sometimes we need to seek more information regarding the existence or value of some asset or debt. We use this information to find a mutually agreeable division of the marital assets and debts within the framework most important to the divorcing couple.
Finally, we consider financial support issues in mediation. If there are minor children, we address issues of child support, including health insurance, childcare costs, education and extra-curricular activities expenses to support the needs of the children. If either spouse is unable to support their reasonable needs, we address the issue of spousal support. The income and expense disclosures of the parties are useful for mediation of these issues.
Preparation of documents
As the mediation progresses, the Mediator prepares a Mediation Summary of Understanding to reflect the agreements reached by the parties in mediation. For parenting arrangements, it is called a Mediation Parenting Plan Summary of Understanding and for Property and Debt issues it is called a Mediation Settlement and Separation Agreement.
Parties will need to have these mediated agreements (along with certain other legal documents) submitted to the Court for the Judge to review and approve and grant their divorce. An attorney can help you do this as an uncontested divorce.