Mediation can provide divorcing couples with a mutually beneficial resolution to many issues relating to their divorce. Using mediation can eliminate the need for multiple court appearances, save both spouses significant money, and reduce the more damaging effects of divorce on children.
Mediation is considered an alternative dispute resolution process, which means that the parties involved resolve their disagreements without the involvement of a court. When mediation is successful, it can lead to an agreement that is then submitted for court approval.
If you are considering mediation for your divorce in Alabama, do not enter the process alone. You will want to hire a divorce mediation attorney who has experience with mediation so that your needs are expressed, your rights are protected, and the decisions you come to are legally binding.
What Is Divorce Mediation?
Mediation is a process in which a neutral third party helps parties reach a settlement. The third party doesn’t have authority over the agreement, nor can it force them to accept a binding decision.
Collaborative divorce is a form of mediation in which each spouse hires their own attorney to enter a process governed by the Alabama Uniform Collaborative Law Act. The divorce mediation lawyers involved in a collaborative divorce agree not to represent their clients in any litigation should negotiations fail, so they are incentivized to act on their client’s best behalf.
Under Alabama Code § 6-6-20(f), any mediator who receives a referral or order from a court to conduct mediation must screen for evidence of domestic or family violence between the two parties involved. If evidence of domestic violence exists, mediation can occur only if mediation is requested by the victim of domestic or family violence, it is provided by a certified mediator trained in domestic and family violence, and the victim is permitted to have a supporting person of their choice in attendance at mediation.
Divorce Mediation Process in Alabama
In mediation, a neutral third party known as a mediator helps the spouses negotiate agreements on the issues relating to their divorce, such as child support, child custody, division of property, and alimony. The mediator will usually listen to both parties and try to help find a middle ground, but they do not give legal advice.
Hire an Experienced Mediation Lawyer
Mediators are not subject to much regulation, so it is important for any couple entering mediation to ensure they hire a person who is competent in these proceedings. Some people may advertise mediation services but lack the skills needed to produce agreements that are actually legally binding.
The way mediation unfolds can vary depending on the mediator. While both spouses will always meet with the mediator at some location, a mediator may speak to spouses individually before working toward an agreement, or they may include both spouses in all proceedings.
Benefits of Using Mediation in a Divorce
One of the primary benefits of mediation for couples with young children is that mediation can reduce or possibly even eliminate the need for court appearances. It can also limit any contentious encounters between spouses and allow parents greater time to focus on their children.
Additional benefits of mediation include the amount of time you can save yourself by reaching a resolution more quickly without having to continually go back to court. Multiple court appearances can also become very costly for people with legal representation, so mediation also provides significant financial savings.
Because mediation is often the result of the wishes of both parties, the agreements that are produced are often much more likely to be complied with. The agreements feel customized and, perhaps most importantly, fair.
Divorce Mediation Checklist
When you are entering mediation, you will want to make sure that you are prepared. Be sure that you collect all of your important financial information before going into mediation so you can be sure that all of the issues most important to you are accurately accounted for.
Before a mediation, you may want to make sure that you locate such items as:
- Savings, checking, money market, and CD accounts
- Pay stubs
- Tax returns
- Credit card statements
- Retirement accounts
- Life insurance
- Valuations of any property or business interests
- High-value property
- Non-retirement investments (stocks, bonds, secured notes, mutual funds)
- Executive compensation
- Deferred compensation
- All other loans and debts
You may also need information relating to your homeowner’s insurance, auto insurance, and health insurance in some cases.
What Can I Expect From a Mediation?
When two parties agree to enter mediation, they will have to agree on a mediator and then agree to the dates, times, and locations of any mediation sessions. Mediation could result in an agreement in a single session that takes just a few hours, or it may require multiple sessions.
A mediator does not have the authority to impose a settlement on the parties but can conduct joint and separate meetings with the parties to try and reach a resolution. They cannot offer legal advice, but they can offer recommendations upon request.
The mediator can end mediation at any point when they believe any further efforts will not contribute to a resolution of the dispute between the parties. The spouses will usually have to turn to litigation in such cases.
Talk to a Seasoned Divorce Mediation Lawyer for More Information
Are you considering mediation for your divorce in Alabama? Do not take any chances trying to negotiate by yourself. Let a family law attorney handle the bigger issues for you.
Leigh Daniel, Attorney at Law has been helping people going through a divorce in Huntsville for more than two decades. You can have our divorce mediation lawyer provide a complete evaluation of your case when you call us or contact us online.