Instead of fighting tooth and nail, couples always have the option of dictating the terms of the divorce themselves. Mediation is a process where a couple seeking divorce employs the skills of a third party neutral, the mediator. This individual can listen to each side explain the dispute and help them find common ground.
A Closer Look at Milwaukee Divorce Mediation
Squabbling spouses often stop listening to each other and instead hunker down with a “take it or leave it” attitude. Mediation helps a couple take a fresh look at their disagreements. Sometimes, simply by listening to each other in a safe environment, they lose their defensiveness and begin to see issues from each other’s perspective.
Before mediation, each spouse usually completes some homework to share their side of the dispute with the mediator. They also will collect documents to share.
Mediation itself typically involves a series of meetings where the couple begins to work through their disagreements. The mediator does not act as a judge or referee. However, mediators can recommend creative solutions to help break through any impasse.
At the end of mediation, the couple can draft a settlement agreement outlining the terms of their divorce and submit it to the judge for approval.
What Issues Can You Mediate?
Divorcing couples have used mediation to successfully resolve disagreements involving:
- Child custody and placement
- Child support
- Spousal maintenance
- Division of marital property and debts
Some couples can resolve all divorce issues, which will dramatically speed up a divorce. Other couples might reach agreement on a couple issues—such as spousal maintenance and the division of property—but not others.
How Does Mediation Benefit Divorcing Couples?
Some common benefits include:
- Speed. Couples can often divorce much faster if they reach an agreement. When they can’t, they’ll have a contested divorce trial, which might require waiting a year or longer.
- Cost. Because mediation helps avoid litigation, couples spend less money getting their divorce decree.
- Collaboration. Because a couple works together, they often reach an agreement which they are more likely to stick to. It also sets them up well to work collaboratively going forward, especially if they will be co-parenting.
When Is Mediation Not Successful?
There are any number of reasons why couples can participate in mediation but not solve disagreements. For one, you must participate in good faith. If you or your spouse is simply going through the motions, then you won’t find common ground and the entire process is a waste of time.
In other cases, a history of domestic violence can make mediation impossible. If you fear your spouse getting violent, then you probably cannot mediate a divorce with them.
Mediation is also unhelpful if you truly believe your spouse is a danger to your children. In that situation, there’s no reason to find “common ground” with someone who poses a threat. Instead, you should seek sole custody of your children.
Why Is Litigation So Expensive?
Litigation is the typical alternative to mediation. With litigation, each side asks the judge to decide contested issues, like custody or the division of marital property. Litigation takes quite a bit of work.
For example, the discovery process is usually extensive. Discovery involves requesting documents or sending questions for the other side to answer. As attorneys, we also help our clients prepare answers or turn over documents, like personal bank records. Discovery also involves depositions, where our clients answer questions under oath.
In some divorces, lawyers must retain expert witnesses, who require extensive preparation. They are also paid for their time and travel, which adds to the litigation bill.
Lastly, litigation is high stakes. So much is riding on winning before the judge. If you lose, it is very hard to get the judgment reversed on appeal, and you typically need to wait a few years before seeking modification of a placement schedule or custody. Your lawyers must prepare extensively so that they can present your case in the most convincing light.
How Much Does Mediation Cost?
Mediation isn’t a free alternative to litigation, but it is generally much cheaper. At Karp & Iancu, our Milwaukee divorce mediation lawyers offer mediation services starting at $1,799 per spouse. Your ultimate price might vary, depending on the circumstances, but this price is much cheaper than a fully contested divorce.
Can You Reach an Agreement with Your Spouse without Mediation?
Yes. Couples only turn to mediation if they are unable to reach an agreement on their own. If you had a short marriage or no children, then you might easily hash out the terms of your divorce without any outside assistance. Still, it might be helpful to meet with a Milwaukee divorce lawyer to ensure you have covered all bases in your settlement agreement.
How Do You Choose a Mediator?
Many attorneys offer mediation services. We recommend looking for someone who has deep experience in family law, especially divorce law. They will have worked with many divorcing couples and should understand how emotions can get high.
Also hire someone local. A Milwaukee divorce mediation attorney understands the local court system, judges, and other divorce lawyers. A local mediation attorney can better explain what will happen if your mediation falters and you are forced to litigate a dispute before a judge.
We also recommend looking for someone with the right personal qualities, such as the ability to listen and an approachable communication style. A mediator should also be fair.
How Do You Prepare for Mediation?
We recommend that spouses spend time thinking about what they want. Doing so ahead of time narrows the issues in dispute and helps you understand whether the mediation is working for you. Remember, mediation is voluntary, and the mediator can’t force you to accept any settlement the way a judge can.