The term “divorce” can often carry with it an image of marital property disputes, contentious child custody hearings, and hard-fought legal battles. However, there are more amicable ways a divorce can be accomplished, one of which is through mediation. Divorce mediation can provide a less-adversarial environment than official court hearings and can allow you to structure the details of your divorce with the guidance of a neutral third-party mediator. Mediation is a good option for some couples considering divorce, but it is not always the best choice. Both parties must be fully open and agreeable to the divorce mediation process. Furthermore, even if mediation is agreed upon, experienced divorce lawyers in Montgomery County, PA should always be consulted before any agreements are signed.
What is Divorce Mediation?
A divorcing couple works with a neutral mediator who helps you and your spouse come to an agreement on all aspects of your divorce, including child custody, alimony, support, and/or the equitable distribution of marital property. The end goal is for you and your spouse to come to a written agreement on your own which spells out all aspects of the divorce. While there is no requirement that the mediator be an attorney, he or she should be highly experienced with PA divorce and family laws.
What is the Divorce Mediation Process in PA?
A common concern is the time required to complete the mediation process, however, there is no true time frame for how long mediation can take or what it can cost. It all depends on you and your spouse’s ability to work together, as mediators usually work on an hourly basis or charge per mediation session.
There is typically an initial consultation where the mediator sits down with you and your spouse to discuss the facts of the divorce and whether mediation may be beneficial. Once it is determined that you both want to move forward with mediation, the mediator will act as an impartial third party to help facilitate an agreement between you and your spouse that covers aspects of the divorce including:
- How marital property is equitably distributed;
- How alimony and support are calculated;
- What the custody rights are if any children are involved.
If both parties can agree, an agreement will be memorialized in writing by the mediator, either through a “Memorandum of Understanding” or a “Marital Settlement Agreement”, depending on the mediator being used (the mediator may or may not be a lawyer). If a Memorandum of Understanding is prepared by the mediator, couples must consult with experienced divorce lawyers in Montgomery County, PA to then draft a formal Marital Settlement Agreement based on this understanding, as a Memorandum of Understanding is not a legally binding agreement.
If a Marital Settlement Agreement is prepared, it is highly recommended that each party have this agreement reviewed by an experienced divorce lawyer in Montgomery County, PA prior to signing, as very specific provisions and language should be included to protect you and your children’s interests. For example, it should include specific provisions including a custody schedule and custody terms, provisions that spell out what happens if one spouse was to relocate, and provisions regarding the equitable distribution of marital property, such as distribution amounts from a 401(k) or whether one spouse will keep the marital home or whether the home will be sold.
Once the agreement is reviewed by an attorney and signed by you and your spouse, an experienced Pennsylvania divorce lawyer can then prepare the necessary paperwork and assist you with filing an uncontested divorce in Montgomery County, PA to obtain the final divorce decree.
The Benefits of Divorce Mediation
Divorce mediation is a good option for some couples considering a divorce in PA, as there are a number of advantages it offers:
- Mediation may result in a better long-term relationship with your spouse.
- It may be easier on children since the divorce proceedings may be more peaceful and amicable.
- It may expedite an agreement and save money.
- Mediation helps you stay in control of your divorce. You are making the decisions, not a Judge.
- It sometimes allows for personal issues to be resolved, as well. Mediators may recommend seeing a therapist, counselor, or attending a support group as part of the mediation process. Support groups are available all across Montgomery County, PA which provide seminars and support for those going through a difficult divorce or separation.
The Disadvantages of Divorce Mediation
While mediation may allow you to essentially negotiate the terms of your own divorce under less hostile conditions, mediation is not for everyone. There are also a number of disadvantages:
- Mediation only works if both parties are open to it. It isn’t a viable option if there are issues of abuse, anger, mental instability, or suspicion of a spouse hiding assets.
- Without the help of experienced divorce lawyers in Montgomery County, PA, you do not have someone specifically looking out for your best interest.
- A mediator is looking for a “fair” result for both parties and may end up suggesting solutions which you do not agree with, but you may feel pressured to agree to under the circumstances.
- Mediation may not offer you enough protection and structure. For example, if there are domestic violence or substance abuse issues, you may benefit from experienced divorce lawyers in Montgomery County, PA speaking on your behalf, instead of trying to negotiate directly. In addition, you may prefer to assume the risks and cost of adversarial litigation in order to make a point or assert a legal right rather than compromise.
- If during the process of mediation, an agreement cannot be reached, the whole mediation process may be a waste of time, as you may have to essentially start over in court.
You often hear about how great mediation is and how it is a better, less contentious, and less expensive way to get a divorce. While this may be true for some, the goal of mediation is to get you to come to an agreement. The fact is that not all agreements are good agreements and you may end up settling on issues you are not happy with or not understanding what you are agreeing to. As explained above, the terms of any settlement agreement require the review of skilled divorce lawyers in Montgomery County, PA to ensure your rights are protected. Contact The Martin Law Firm at 215-646-3980 to speak with experienced divorce lawyers regarding any divorce, divorce mediation, or settlement agreement issue.
Free Divorce Worksheet
Download our free Divorce Worksheet to help simplify the issues in your Pennsylvania divorce.