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Can Using Mediation Make Divorce Less Unpleasant?

Divorce cases tend to be much nastier than regular business disputes. Most people who are in the middle of a divorce feel that they have been wronged and that a judge should hear just how badly their soon-to-be-ex-spouse has behaved. They also know that the couple’s financial assets must be split and issues of custody, visitation and child support will affect them for many years, so they want to get as much money and control as possible.

Many couples spend so much time fighting viciously over every possible issue that it’s the lawyers who end up with most of the couple’s assets in the end. The children are dragged into the fighting, and often their relationships with both parents are damaged as a result. When a judge has to determine issues such as visitation schedules and dividing up marital property, they often make decisions that are far removed from what either party wants.

There is a better way. An increasing number of divorcing Alabama couples have decided to bring their issues to a mediator, rather than fighting them out in court. A mediator is an impartial third party is asked to hear both sides and help them reach an agreement. Most mediators are licensed attorneys, social workers or psychologists. The parties’ attorneys are usually present, but they are not there to fight for their client, only to advise them and help them come to an agreement that meets their needs.

How does mediation work?

In mediation sessions, the mediator ― who has received extensive training in the process ― meets with all parties and also listens to each side separately in order to fully understand the issues in the case. The process is designed to allow both sides to vent their frustration without poisoning the atmosphere. The mediation process assists the parties find areas of joint interest and reach a compromise.

The average mediation session takes less than half a day (although some require a few sessions), and the process often helps couples resolve issues that would take months or years to resolve in litigation. The parties normally split the cost of the mediator, which is a fraction of the cost of taking a case to court. There are several ways to find a mediator, including through a program run by the Alabama Bar Association.

Are there any risks from agreeing to mediation?

Mediation is voluntary and, if it does not work, the spouses can always decide to proceed to court. Anything you have shared with the mediator is confidential, so the fact that you were willing to make compromises on certain issues cannot be introduced in court as a sign that your position was weak.

If you think that mediation might work for you in your divorce case, consult with us. Even if you think that your relationship with your spouse is too acrimonious for mediation to work, we still encourage our clients to consider it. When mediation works, spouses can be left with lower legal fees, happier children, reduced psychological and financial stress, and start their transition from being a married couple to co-parents in a positive way.

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