For this reason, many divorces are resolved through a negotiated settlement that addresses key outstanding issues, such as the division of property and child custody and placement. But getting to a negotiated settlement sometimes requires some help. One possible option in these cases is mediation. At Karp & Iancu, S.C., our experienced Menomonee Falls divorce mediation attorneys can offer you and your spouse a potentially less expensive–and less stressful–alternative to contested litigation.
How Divorce Mediation Works in Wisconsin
Mediation is a long-accepted method of alternate dispute resolution in our legal system. The basic concept behind mediation is fairly straightforward: The parties to a dispute sit down with a neutral, third-party mediator who facilitates discussion of any outstanding issues, and hopefully enables the parties to resolve them without the need for litigation.
It is important to understand that mediation is not the same thing as arbitration. Arbitration is also a form of alternative dispute resolution. But an arbitrator effectively functions like a private judge, hearing evidence from both parties and rendering a decision that is legally binding on them. In contrast, a mediator is not there to decide any issues related to your divorce. Rather, the mediator is there to help you and your estranged spouse make those decisions for yourselves. A mediator cannot and will not decide “who is right” when it comes to your divorce.
Indeed, in many cases mediation may only be necessary for one or two issues arising from a divorce. The parties may have already reached an agreement on certain other subjects. Some of the more common subjects of divorce mediation include:
- Child Custody & Child Placement. Which parent will the children live with? How much visitation time will the other parent have? Will both parents make critical decisions regarding the children together?
- Child Support. If the children will live primarily with one parent, how much in child support will the other parent pay?
- Spousal Maintenance. Will either spouse pay maintenance–i.e., alimony–to the other? And if so, how much and for how long?
- Division of Marital Property and Debts. Who will keep the house? How will any bank or retirement accounts be divided? Who will pay any outstanding debts such as credit card bills or the mortgage?
Even if divorce mediation is unable to resolve all of these issues, it can be worth it to achieve a partial settlement. In some cases, it may still be necessary to resort to contested litigation to have a judge decide any issues where the parties are simply unable or unwilling to agree.
What Are the Benefits of Mediation?
The main advantages of divorce mediation are speed and cost. Anytime that a divorcing couple can reach an agreement on some or all issues, that tends to substantially reduce the time necessary to bring a divorce case to a conclusion. After all, it can take upwards of a year to bring a contested divorce to court for trial.
And that added time also means added expense. Litigation is often far more expensive than people realize. Even for a “simple” divorce, both parties may require months of pre-trial discovery, including depositions and document exchanges, even before setting foot in the courtroom. And even after the judge hears and decides the case, either party can appeal if dissatisfied, which can take another year or more to handle.
Finally, it is worth noting that by undergoing a collaborative process like divorce mediation, you and your former partner are more likely to have a vested interest in the success of the final agreement. As a general rule, people are more likely to honor a settlement they negotiated themselves as opposed to one imposed by a judge.