Divorce mediation is a type of alternative dispute resolution that allows divorcing couples to work with a neutral mediator to come to a decision without involving a court. If you and your spouse are having trouble working out the terms of your impending divorce, it may be tempting to go to court with a contested divorce as soon as possible. While this is an option, it can be costly, stressful, and unpredictable. A divorce mediator can help you come to an agreement on issues that you and your spouse need to resolve to finalize your divorce, including but not limited to child custody, child support, and division of property. With divorce mediation, couples are given the opportunity to have a neutral mediator listen to both sides of the case and work with the parties and their divorce attorneys to come to a final agreement.
Is mediation required to get divorced?
Unless a judge orders you and your spouse to undergo mediation, divorce mediation is voluntary. This means that you and your spouse have to agree to mediate. Alabama judges will typically encourage mediation, and some may require it prior to moving forward with a contested divorce trial. Whether or not a contested divorce needs to go through mediation before trial is dependent upon the county and the judge. Judges do have the discretion to make mediation mandatory as they see fit.
How does the mediation process work?
When mediation is ordered by a judge, you will meet with either a court-appointed mediator, or a private mediator of your own choosing if the court allows it. If you are trying mediation on your own, you and your spouse will need to find a mediator that you both agree to.
In the first mediation meeting, the couple and the moderator will identify the issues in the divorce case that need to be discussed and in what order these issues will be discussed. From there, they decide what information they still need to collect including all relevant financial data and any necessary expert opinions such as those regarding appraisers or accountants.
In later meetings, discussions will revolve around how to compromise on the various issues in order to meet the needs of both parties. The mediator will assist here by providing relevant information about the court system and common ways that divorce issues are resolved in a divorce settlement.
When the parties have reached an agreement on all issues, the mediator will draft the agreement for review by each of the parties and their attorneys. Decisions that are made by the mediator are not legally enforceable. The court can take the recommendations from the mediator’s report and enter those terms in the divorce decree, or the court can set the mediator’s report aside and enter its own ruling. Typically, the court will adopt the recommendations of the mediator’s final agreement report as long as it is fair to both parties and addresses all of the elements required in a marital agreement.
How long does mediation take?
The length of mediation will vary depending on the complexity of the issues at hand, and the ability of the individuals to be open and flexible as they navigate their way to a fair agreement. While every case is different, the average case will typically take at least three to four two-hour mediation sessions spread out over the course of a month or two. Divorce mediation will typically take less time than for a contested divorce to be decided by the courts. It is not as quick as an uncontested divorce, which is the best way to get a fast divorce in Birmingham or wherever you live, but it can definitely help to expedite your contested divorce.