Of course, for most people this is not reality. Many marriages simply reach a point where both parties agree that it is best to end things and go their separate ways. But even when there is an amicable split, there are still a number of legal issues–property division, spousal support, child custody, et al.–that need to be addressed. When parties need help resolving these matters, divorce mediation may be an option.
At Karp & Iancu, S.C., we offer divorce mediation services for people looking for an alternative to courtroom litigation. While mediation is not without costs, it is generally far less expensive than a contested divorce proceeding. The ultimate goal is to ensure that both sides are able to reach an equitable understanding regarding the end of their marriage so that everyone can move on with their lives.
What Exactly Is “Divorce Mediation”?
The basic concept of mediation is that it provides a non-binding process to facilitate a settlement between < a href=" https://www.karplawfirm.com/locations/west-bend/">divorcing spouses. The “non-binding” part is key. Mediation is not about forcing either side to accept terms that cannot live with.
With this context, it is important not to confuse mediation with arbitration. An arbitrator is a third party who hears a dispute and renders a decision that is legally binding on the parties, similar to a judge. A mediator, in contrast, is a neutral third party whose primary function is to “mediate” a discussion between the parties. In some cases, a mediator may also be asked to evaluate each side’s positions regarding any contested issues and propose a possible settlement. But again, the mediator cannot impose a settlement, only make suggestions.
Divorce mediation is also not an all-or-nothing proposition. Many couples may have already resolved the majority of their issues beforehand but one or two sticking points still remain. It is therefore critical for the parties to define at the outset what subjects they wish the mediator to assist with. Some of the more common subjects of divorce mediation include:
- the division of any tangible personal property, such as household items or automobiles;
- the distribution of other assets–including real property, financial accounts, retirement accounts–as well as debts;
- child custody – who will make major decisions regarding the couple’s children;
- child placement – how much time will the children spend with each parent;
- child support; and
- spousal support or maintenance.
If divorce mediation fails to resolve any of these issues, the parties can still opt for a contested divorce and have a judge decide any unresolved matter.
Why Opt for Divorce Mediation?
Divorce mediation can afford a number of advantages for couples. Some of the key advantages our clients have found include:
- Divorce mediation is confidential. Anything said during a mediation session cannot be used against you in court. The judge may be aware of the fact that mediation took place and was unsuccessful. But the court will not know the contents of any mediation discussion.
- Divorce mediation is generally less expensive than a contested trial. There are still costs involved with mediation. But on average both sides end up paying far less in legal fees than if they opt for a trial.
- Divorce mediation usually takes much less time. Getting on a judge’s trial calendar can take several months–even more than a year–in Wisconsin. For many divorcing couples, mediation offers a quicker path to getting things over with.
- Divorce mediation allows the parties to remain in control. Ultimately, a negotiated settlement that both parties take a role in is more likely to ”stick.”