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Family & Divorce Law

What is Divorce Mediation? A Primer for Colorado Couples

By Tolison & Williams / June 17, 2019

Going through a divorce can be an extremely stressful, contentious, and expensive process. But the stress of divorce does not have to include long arguments before a judge and endless courtroom visits when an alternative option exists — divorce mediation

This guide explains what divorce mediation in Colorado entails and how the process goes for both parties. 

What is Divorce Mediation?

Divorce mediation is an alternative divorce dispute resolution method, allowing spouses to finalize the terms of their separation with the help of a trained divorce mediator — either court-appointed or jointly selected by the couple.  

Here’s who you can select as a divorce mediator in Colorado:

  • Licensed professionals, listed with your local courthouse 
  • Members of state or national mediation or family law organizations
  • Family law attorneys who are licensed as mediators 

A skilled mediator can help couples reach an agreement on contentious issues such as asset division, custody, and child support in a controlled, positive environment. 

The mediator doesn't solve problems on behalf of either of the parties or try to pressure either party into making a certain decision. Their role is to be an intermediary between the parties and help them communicate as best as possible to resolve their issues. 

What Does a Divorce Mediator Do?

A mediator is a neutral third party who works with both spouses to try and reach agreements on those sticky issues in dispute, such as child support payments. Depending on the emotional states of the divorcing spouses, a mediator may meet with each party alone and act as a go-between or sit down with the couple together to hammer out agreements. These agreements almost always involve compromises by both parties.

It is important to note that a mediator does not make any official decisions. When mediators cannot get agreements, the court may order arbitration, or a judge may make those final decisions. In both of these events, the decisions of the arbitrator or the judge are final.

Is Mediation Required During Divorce?

Not always. When the divorcing spouses can agree on the terms of the divorce, then there is no need for mediation. 

In Colorado, as in almost every state, mediation will usually be ordered by the court when parties are in disagreement about child custody, visitation, and support, or division of assets. Couples may also choose private mediation as a strategy to deescalate a contested divorce

Collaborative Divorce vs. Mediation Explained

Mediation is often confused with collaborative divorce because the end results are similar — reaching an agreement outside the courtroom. The means, however, are different. 

In a collaborative divorce, each spouse hires a separate divorce attorney, and their legal representation attempts to reach a settlement on all disputed issues. However, if no agreement is hammered, a collaborative attorney shall withdraw representation, and you’d be forced to look for another professional to protect your interests in the Colorado court. This increases the cost of divorce

Divorce mediation assumes working with a neutral third-party who is not advocating for anyone’s interests but rather tries to work an equitable agreement. In this case, you retain one divorce mediation attorney or another licensed professional to facilitate negotiations. Divorce mediation cost is often lower in comparison to collaborative divorce and litigation

Advantages to choosing mediation

Mediation can be an especially good option for divorcing parents and other couples who will need to maintain good communication post-divorce because of their ties to each other. 

Here are some of the many advantages to choosing mediation for a divorce:

  • Autonomy in decision-making surrounding the divorce. 
  • A high degree of flexibility and control over the negotiation process 
  • Confidentiality of the information shared during mediation sessions 
  • Cost and time efficiency compared to court appearances  
  • No obligation to hire another attorney or collaborative professional 

Overall, mediation gives the couple a much greater chance of filing an uncontested divorce and keeping their relationship positive post-divorce.

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How Does Divorce Mediation Work?

Your mediator will either meet with you and your spouse separately or together, depending on the level of hostility that may exist.

During the process, here is what you should expect:

  1. The mediator should remain neutral and not offer any opinions or recommendations to either party.
  2. The mediator will facilitate communication but not insert themselves into the decision-making. 
  3. You may withdraw from mediation at any time. If, however, that mediation has been court-ordered, you will probably then be subject to arbitration or court rulings on disputed matters.

Once mediation is complete and both parties have reached an agreement, they must both sign a document to be submitted to the court. That document becomes binding on both parties and cannot be changed without additional court filings. 

Learn more about preparing for Colorado divorce mediation from our previous guide. 

What Role Does Your Divorce Attorney Play During Mediation?

Divorce involves several legal steps. You may or may not know all of your rights during the divorce and mediation process. For this reason alone, you should not forego hiring an attorney.

During mediation, the role of your attorney is to review the agreements that have been reached and provide advice and recommendations that the mediator cannot. You must consult your lawyer during every step of this process. And most importantly – do not sign anything until you have discussed it with your attorney.

Separately, you can choose to hire a divorce mediation attorney — a family law attorney with an extra license and specialization in providing mediation services — over another type of professional such as a social worker or certified public accountant. In this case, you can rest assured ensure that all the reached agreements will be formalized according to Colorado divorce laws. 

Why You Should Choose an Attorney as a Mediator

Attorneys make valuable mediators because they can mediate a legally sound resolution to protect both parties and provide the participants with guidance based on their experience in the particular county in which the case is filed. Having an attorney as a mediator also means that a person doesn't have to seek an outside party to help with filing the divorce paperwork and completing other legal administrative tasks. This streamlines the process and reduces costs. 

How Tolison & Williams Can Help

In many cases, we find it best to play the role of mediator ourselves. Although we have extensive experience as litigators in divorce cases, we have also found that many of our clients benefit more from our expertise as mediators. In these cases, we act as the neutral third party and work with both parties to negotiate the best possible outcome for them, their children, and their budgets. Tolison and Williams has been in the practice of all matters of Denver Family Law for many years. If you are entering divorce proceedings and are searching for a mediator or litigator to help you through the process, get in touch with us today.

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