Posted By Irene C. Olszewski, Esq. on February 13, 2012
Couples undergoing the divorce process are not forced to use the court-based litigation model in order to reach a settlement. In Connecticut, spouses may also elect to participate in the collaborative divorce model, which utilizes 2 collaboratively-trained divorce lawyers (one for each party). To read previous posts on this blog about the collaborative divorce process, click here. Those who wish may choose mediation as a process to reach a settlement agreement. I will be discussing the latter model in this post.
Mediation is a process that is somewhat familiar to most people. Mediation differs from litigated divorce in that the process takes place out of court (except for the final judgment, which must be granted in court by a judge). The divorcing couple meet together with a neutral mediator — a neutral third party — to work out the details of their separation agreement. The mediator will guide you through the process of filing the required documents with the court. She will facilitate communication between the parties ultimately leading to a final settlement agreement. The neutral mediator will assist you in collecting and evaluating financial assets, help you to develop a parenting plan (if children are involved) and guide you through the decision-making process. When needed, she will utilize the services of a neutral financial professional to assist in valuing and appraising assets. She may also bring in a child specialist to assist the couple in formulating a workable parenting plan.
The mediator’s job is to help the parties make voluntary decisions that lead to the best possible outcome. It is important to note that even if that mediator is a lawyer, she is not able to advise either party individually on legal issues. The mediator will only be able to speak with both parties together about basic legal rules and procedures. Mediators always advise the couple that each party has the right to consult with his or her own independent lawyer about specific legal issues and questions. It is also recommended that you have your own lawyer review the final separation agreement with you before it is signed and becomes an order of the court.
Why choose mediation over litigation?
Most couples report that the cost of mediation is generally lower, the process is usually faster and the parties remain civil during the process. While the first 2 reasons are certainly good ones, the latter may be the most important — especially when children are involved.
Is mediation for me?
That depends. If either spouse is one of those people who won’t listen to reason, must always assert total control and is verbally abusive and argumentative for no reason other than to amuse him or herself, mediation probably isn’t the right choice. Litigation is likely your only option. Conversely, if you and your spouse are both reasonable people who want to have a say in the outcome of the divorce but need some help getting to the right agreement, mediation will probably serve you well. If you favor the idea of mediation but would feel more secure with an attorney advising you all through the process, you should consider collaborative divorce.
If you are contemplating divorce, you should speak to an attorney to discuss which divorce model is best for you. Divorce doesn’t always have to be a horrible experience.
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copyright 2012 Irene C. Olszewski