What is mediation?
Mediation is a procedure to assist spouses to reach settlement of issues arising out of their marriage upon separation or divorce. It is an alternative to litigation in the court system.
During litigation, spouses may bargain back and forth, each seeking the best advantage, in the hope of reaching settlement. If the matter goes to trial, then a third party, the judge, will decide all of the issues.
In mediation, the spouses meet with the mediator to search for ways to restructure their lives and finances in a way that is fair to each of them. The spouses themselves make the decisions about settlement.
The mediator is present to inform the spouses about the law and to help them define and resolve issues in areas such as parenting, maintenance, and division of family assets. When the issues have been resolved, the mediator will draft an Agreement setting out the terms of the settlement for the parties to sign.
What are the advantages of mediation?
- Mediation is far less costly and time-consuming than litigation
- Spouses who reach agreement by mediation are more likely to comply with the agreement than with a court order
- People are usually happier with decisions they have made for themselves rather than decisions someone has made for them
- The spouses' concerns and needs can be expressed and discussed in an atmosphere of understanding rather than distrust
- In most cases strong negative emotions such as anger, hostility, or fear, can be expressed in a controlled atmosphere so that they do not make it impossible to reach a settlement
- Children are less likely to be used as weapons, and the disruptive effects of family break-up can therefore be diminished for them
- The emotional and psychological damage of separation or divorce on the spouses can be minimized during mediation, while it is often maximized through litigation
- Spouses may learn new ways of talking to each other that will assist them in dealing with ongoing matters such as continued parenting of young children or the future sale of property
- If unforeseen issues arise in the future, the parties can return to mediation rather than leaving matters unresolved or starting legal action
- Spouses will hear the legal information at the same time from a neutral mediator