What Is Divorce Mediation?
Divorce mediation is a method of resolving issues, including a parenting plan (child custody), division of assets and spousal support. It serves as an alternative to the formal divorce court litigation process.
Both parties, and usually their attorneys if they have them, attend mediation meetings with a neutral third party, known as a mediator, that is either selected by the parties, or appointed by the court. The mediator aids the divorcing couple in reaching a settlement. Parties have the chance to talk about the problems and resolve any disagreements.
The mediator can make recommendations and maybe even be forceful at times, but is not allowed to force agreements on the parties. The mediator can only help the parties ability to reach a settlement. The mediator may provide an opinion or give ideas, but they are not permitted to order a final decision, like a judge does.
What Is The Divorce Mediation Process?
In New Hampshire, in most cases a judge orders the parties to try mediation. The judge cannot force the parties to settle but they can at least force them to try. This is frequently achieved through a series of meetings with the mediator.
The next step is to select a qualified divorce mediator. Sometimes the parties or their attorneys will select a mediator privately. This is often a retired judge or an experienced lawyer. The fees of the private mediator are typically similar to what a lawyer with many years of experience charges. Alternatively, in New Hampshire the court will appoint a mediator. The court appointed mediators are trained and skilled, but do not typically have nearly the same level of experience or credentials as the private mediators. Their fee is much lower.
The current set fee for court appointed mediators in New Hampshire is $300, split between the parties. This represents up to five hours of time at $60 per hour. One hour is reserved for paperwork and travel. The other four hours are divided between two, two-hour sessions. If the case does not settle in the first session, the mediator can reschedule for a second session.
What Happens During Divorce Mediation?
Divorce mediation entails gathering information, identifying issues, negotiating terms, and, hopefully, reaching a settlement. Sometimes the mediators will request specific pieces of information or documents to help them understand the situation.
The mediator may meet with the parties in one group setting, or may separate each spouse into a different room and “shuttle” back and forth.
Every conversation that takes place during mediation is completely confidential. Spouses’ statements in mediation are protected by privilege, with a few important exceptions, such as reporting threats of violence. The mediator generally cannot be forced to testify about what was said during the mediation. However, most mediators will tell the parties that they will be free to share what one spouse says with the other spouse, unless specifically stated otherwise.
The length of the sessions can vary. For the New Hampshire court appointed mediation they are set at two hours. For private mediation sessions they are usually set at either a half-day or a full-day.
Before the sessions start, the complete disclosure of all financial records is usually necessary to discuss all issues openly. Each spouse should complete a financial affidavit that include assets, debt, income and expenses. If the parties have attorneys, the attorneys will typically prepare detailed proposals in advance, including a parenting plan when minor children are involved that takes into account the children’s best interests and needs.
Mediation will continue in this manner until an agreement on each issue is reached.
What Is The Difference Between Private Divorce Mediation And Court-Ordered Mediation?
When you participate in private mediation, you and your spouse voluntarily attempt to seek an agreeable solution to your divorce issues. Since it can help them save a significant amount of time and money, many people start this process before officially filing for divorce. If so, you can file the paperwork as an uncontested divorce
Court-ordered mediation occurs after the divorce has already started. Your state’s divorce laws will determine the point at which the court orders mediation in certain situations.
The Rule Of Thumb With Divorce Mediation Is That The Earlier You Start, The Better.
Of course, you should start the divorce mediation procedure as soon as possible. You can significantly reduce the stress associated with marital problems that usually result in a divorce by consulting a mediator.
The earlier you and your spouse start thinking about your divorce in terms of cooperation and compromise, the more stress, conflict, and expense you can avoid. Mediation can help you better understand the cause of the problems in your relationship and give the calm and supportive environment needed to work through the issues.