The ways to get divorced and the experience of going through it have evolved over time. Nowadays, a stressful trial is not assumed. The parties are more likely to reach a negotiated agreement, often through their lawyers, and using alternate dispute resolution methods, known as ADR. Mediation is a popular process that may help you and your spouse work through the issues you must resolve in a more positive and less adversarial way.
What is mediation?
Mediation is a process that is aided and orchestrated by a neutral professional called a mediator, a person with special training in communication and conflict resolution. In many divorces, when emotions are heightened and stakes are high, it can be a relief and a natural step to shift the burden of sorting everything out to the mediator, who works with both of you to help reach your own solution to the legal family issues.
First, the mediator will need to learn the facts about your situation and family. He or she will help you and your spouse articulate your goals for each issue and try to find common ground in an effort to find a resolution which meets both of your needs. The process may still be difficult, but a skillful mediator can help the participants through impasses using professional techniques.
Ideally, you and your spouse would each have your own lawyer to guide you during mediation. Although the lawyers do not traditionally attend mediation sessions, the lawyers can provide information about the law that applies and about your rights, as well as legal advice and guidance, so that you mediate/negotiate from a place of knowledge and strength.
During a divorce, many issues will need to be resolved, including alimony, child support and custody, parenting time and property division. A couple may successfully mediate all of the issues to agreement or only some of them. If there are outstanding, unresolved matters, they can still be tried in court before a judge.
Unmarried parents trying to resolve legal issues related to their children may also utilize mediation.
Why try mediation?
Divorcing spouses in mediation often feel that they have secured some of what they wanted, and even though there were compromises, at least they had some input and control over the outcome. In contrast, if the judge in the divorce decided the same issues, even though he or she would consider relevant evidence, the outcome is out of the control of the parties and decided by a person whom they have never met.
In mediation, the parties themselves are in the driver’s seat, even though they may be at odds and experiencing stress, especially when children are involved. Many find it less stressful and more private than the courtroom, as well as less expensive and more respectful.
If you are facing the prospect of divorce in Massachusetts, talk to a lawyer with experience in litigation, traditional negotiation and alternative methods like mediation and collaboration. Your attorney can help you sort through the pros and cons of each method in light of your unique situation to decide which to propose to your spouse.
The attorneys at the office of Linda Sternberg, Esquire of Watertown represent Massachusetts clients in a broad variety of divorce and family law matters using negotiation, mediation, collaborative practice and litigation. As both an attorney and a trained mediator, Linda Sternberg, Esquire acts as legal advisor to a client throughout the mediation process or as a mediator in cases in which she does not represent either party.