What happens when parents can’t agree on the terms and conditions of their divorce? In many cases, turning to a process like mediation can be incredibly helpful. This is precisely what reality star Audrina Patridge and her estranged husband have chosen to do. The pair, who share a child together, filed for divorce in September 2017. More than a year later, the couple is still struggling to finalize their split. This January, they’ll sit down with a divorce mediator and attempt to “resolve all remaining and reserved issues.”
What is Mediation?
Mediation is a type of alternative dispute resolution. The process is favored in family law matters because it engages the help of a neutral third party, but allows spouses to retain control over the outcome. The mediator doesn’t have the authority to make unilateral decisions on behalf of the spouses. Instead, the mediator:
- Opens a line of communication between spouses
- Identifies the outcome each spouse would like to achieve in the divorce
- Determines what is most important to each spouse
- Encourages spouses to take a step back, find common ground, and appreciate the bigger picture; and
- Helps spouses have meaningful negotiations and work toward mutually-agreeable resolutions.
How issues are resolved is ultimately left to the spouses. The mediator simply provides neutral input and uses tools that can allow spouses to move toward the same goals.
What Can I Expect During the Mediation Process?
Mediation is a private meeting between you, your spouse, and your mediator. You also have the option of having an attorney present throughout the process. The goal of mediation is to identify common goals and compromise to reach them. While each mediation process will be different, here’s what you can generally expect when you sit down with a mediator.
Initial Meeting: The mediation process begins with you and your spouse sitting down together with the mediator. The mediator will explain how the process will unfold and establish certain ground rules. You will be reminded that you have the final say in negotiations. The mediator is simply there to help guide conversations and negotiations in the best direction.
Individual Statements: You and your spouse will have the opportunity to make statements at the beginning of the process. You’ll both be able to explain your side of the story and detail what you’d like to get out of the mediation process.
Individual Consultations: Sometimes its best to separate spouses at the beginning of the mediation process. Mediators can often obtain more details and information from each spouse in a private consultation. The mediator will try to elicit details and important aspects of your case. They’ll discuss the issue you with and then take your concerns to your spouse. The mediator can go back and forth between spouses until an agreement is near.
Joint Consultation: The mediator can also sit down with both spouses in the same room and guide a fruitful conversation. You’ll each have the opportunity to speak and answer questions, as well as note any concerns you may have. The mediator will help you identify potential compromises and solutions to your issues. The mediator may also offer a variety of different solutions to your problems. Exposing you to solutions can help to spark creativity and identify potential resolutions that may appeal to you both.
Drawing an Agreement: Once you and your spouse have negotiated an agreement, it can be set in stone. Your mediator will draw up a formal contract that contains the agreed-upon provisions. You’ll each get a chance to review the contract before singing. The contract will be binding once its signed, as long as its later approved by a court.
What Issues Are Typically Resolved in Mediation?
Mediation can be used to resolve one, some, or all of the issues in your divorce. Many couples are able to agree on certain terms on their own, but have trouble negotiating others. Audrina Patridge and her husband, for example, have already agreed on child custody and how property will be divided. Other issues, however, are preventing their divorce from being finalized.
Families may use mediation to resolve any issues, including:
Mediation is often a favored tool because it can help to save time during a contested divorce. The longer your divorce takes, the more money it will cost in the long run. Relying on a neutral third party to help you resolve your issues is often a great way to save time and money.
Are you and your spouse having a difficult time finalizing your divorce? Do you need help finding common ground? Mediation may be an appropriate option. Contact our Los Angeles family law attorneys to learn more. We offer a free consultation, so don’t hesitate to call for help today.