You and your divorcing spouse have each hired a divorce attorney, as you should. You need to involve a professional and experienced family lawyer who can protect your rights during every aspect of a divorce.
But often the court will also order mediation, especially when there are custody and child support issues to deal with. How does divorce mediation work, and what does it entail?
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 that are 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 may 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 are unable to get agreements, then 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.
But in Colorado, as in most 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, but there can be some hefty fees that go along with that.
What You Should Expect During Mediation
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:
- The mediator should remain neutral and not offer any opinions or recommendations to either party.
- The mediator will facilitate communication but not insert him/herself into the decision-making.
- 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.
What Role Does Your Divorce Attorney Play During Mediation?
Divorce involves a number of legal issues. 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.
The role of your attorney during mediation is to review the agreements that have been reached and to provide the advice and recommendations that the mediator cannot. It is critical that you consult your lawyer during every step of this process. And most importantly – do not sign anything until you have discussed it with your attorney.
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 in search of a mediator or litigator to help you through the process, get in touch with us today.