To the contrary, many Wisconsin divorce cases are amicably resolved and the parties are able to present a final settlement agreement to the court for its approval.
One way to achieve such a result is third-party mediation. A qualified Fox Point divorce mediation attorney can assist you with this process. At Karp & Iancu, S.C., we have a long track record of successfully mediating divorce settlements without the need for litigation. We can help you and your spouse bring your marriage to a respectable conclusion and do what is best for you and your family moving forward.
How Does Divorce Mediation Actually Work?
Mediation involves both sides working together outside of court to reach a mutually acceptable resolution to any outstanding issues in their divorce case. This includes but is not necessarily limited to:
- division of marital property;
- allocation of marital debts;
- whether one party will pay spousal maintenance (alimony) to the other, and if so how much and how for long; and
- the custody and placement of any minor children shared between the parties.
Mediation involves working with a mediator to resolve these issues. A mediator is a neutral third party trained in Wisconsin family law. The mediator is not there to take sides or advocate for a specific outcome. The mediator’s role is simply to facilitate discussion. And if the parties are able to reach an agreement, the mediator can assist in drafting a formal legal agreement to submit to the court.
While every mediation is unique, the process generally unfolds in four stages:
- The parties hold an initial meeting with the mediator. The parties can outline their respective goals–i.e., what issues they hope to resolve–and the mediator can explain how the process will work.
- The parties will submit a brief disclosing all of the information necessary to achieve a settlement.
- The parties will hold one or more negotiating sessions with the mediator.
- If the parties reach an agreement on any issues, they can ask the mediator to draft a proposed agreement.
It is important to distinguish mediation from arbitration. Like mediation, arbitration is also an alternative means of resolving a legal dispute. But arbitration is typically an adversarial process. That is, each party will retain their own lawyers and present arguments to an arbitrator, who will render a decision (known as an “award”), which is then legally binding on both sides.
Mediation is always a voluntary process. The mediator cannot impose a settlement on either side. And if mediation fails, either spouse retains the right to pursue litigation in court. Anything said during the mediation sessions remains confidential and cannot be used in a subsequent divorce trial.
Is Divorce Mediation Right For You?
Divorce mediation offers several potential advantages over traditional litigation:
- Mediation is collaborative, as the spouses must work together to reach a compromise that is acceptable to both of them.
- Mediation is more hands-on, as the spouses take responsibility for discussing their issues one-on-one rather than through attorneys.
- Mediation is almost always quicker than litigation, especially since the parties can set their own timetable and do not have to wait for an opening on a judge’s calendar.
- Mediation is generally less expensive, both in terms of money and emotional investment.
That said, divorce mediation cannot–and should not–be used in every case. If there is a history of domestic violence or abuse, mediation is often not a viable option. Similarly, if either party simply feels afraid or unable to deal with the other spouse openly and honestly, mediation is unlikely to succeed.
It is also important to keep in mind, however, that mediation need not be an all-or-nothing process. You and your spouse may be able to reach a mediated settlement on certain issues, such as child placement and custody, while opting to let a judge decide other matters, such as the division of property.
Why Do You Need to Work with an Experienced Fox Point Divorce Mediation Lawyer?
If you and your spouse decide that divorce mediation is something you wish to pursue, your first step should be choosing a qualified attorney to assist you as the mediator. There are a number of things you need to consider when selecting a mediator:
- Are they a licensed attorney who specializes in Wisconsin family law?
- Do they have a track record of handling divorce cases before the Wisconsin courts?
- Is the mediator impartial? Do they have any biases or ties to either spouse that might make them less than ideal to serve as mediator?
- Does the mediator understand their role? A mediator cannot make judgments or even give legal advice.
- Can the mediator help you and your spouse draft a final agreement if you are able to reach a settlement?