A primer on divorce mediation and its potential benefits

Mediation, which is a non-adversarial approach to divorce, may help spouses reach more agreeable, cost-effective and personalized settlements.

Divorce is often one of the most difficult life changes and legal processes that a person can experience. On top of emotional upheaval and uncertainty, separating spouses often face prolonged, costly legal disputes. Fortunately, modern approaches to divorce can alleviate many of these issues. Today, many people in Texas may be able to avoid unnecessary costs and stress by choosing mediation as an alternative to litigation.

Structure of mediation

During mediation, divorcing spouses meet with a neutral, trained third party to review their needs, objectives and potential solutions. Each party may also bring an attorney to review the terms of any proposed agreement and provide other advice as needed. Although each spouse may have legal representation, the mediation process is not adversarial; the goal is to reach a settlement that is agreeable to both people.

Mediation varies from litigation in several ways. This approach is more flexible; spouses can hold appointments at times that suit their schedules and take as much time as needed to reach a settlement. Spouses also retain more control over the process than they would during litigation. For example, they may decide not to bring their children into mediation sessions when determining child custody and parenting plans. Furthermore, unlike courtroom proceedings, mediation is confidential.

Possible advantages

Due to its unique structure, mediation can provide numerous benefits over other approaches to divorce. These include:

· Reduced strife. The non-adversarial nature of mediation may benefit spouses who will remain in contact after the divorce due to factors such as shared parenting responsibilities.

· Cost-effectiveness. Mediation may help spouses reach a resolution more quickly. It may also reduce costs by allowing spouses to avoid hiring professionals, such as business valuation experts or forensic accountants, to bolster their cases.

· Personalization. With traditional litigation, there is a risk that neither party will be satisfied with the eventual outcome. During mediation, spouses have more input and more control over the final resolution.

Another benefit of mediation is that a mediator lacks the power to reach a binding resolution. Therefore, spouses always have final say over whether an agreement is acceptable.

Finding the right fit

Although there are advantages to completing a non-adversarial divorce through mediation, this may not be the optimal choice for every couple. If one spouse tends to be more dominant or confrontational, the final agreement may overly favor that spouse. In addition, if a couple cannot come to a final agreement, they will have to hire new attorneys and lose all progress made during mediation.

For assistance weighing the benefits and drawbacks of mediation, spouses may want to consult with an attorney who has experience in this area as well as more traditional approaches to divorce. An attorney may be able to help a spouse identify the most suitable path forward and provide any necessary representation as the divorce case progresses.