A mediated divorce is one in which you and your spouse work out your own divorce settlement with the help of an independent, neutral third party, called a mediator. Unlike divorce litigation, you don't go to court, and a judge is not involved other than to approve your settlement when it's complete.
Mediation can be seen as a sort of intermediate step between working out the details of your divorce totally on your own with your spouse and having a full blown divorce trial.
A mediated divorce can be a lot less expensive than litigating in court--the main expense will be the mediator's time, and you may want to pay an attorney to review the settlement agreement once you've agreed to the terms. Mediation is almost always faster than going to court, too--but a number of factors can affect how long the mediation takes, including:
- How many assets you have. The more things you have to divide up, the longer it is going to take--there are simply more decisions to make.
- How many issues are in question. If you've agreed on almost everything, but there are one or two thorny issues, your mediation may go quickly as your mediator helps you negotiate those final issues.
- Whether child custody is at stake. Parents often find it easier to compromise on financial possessions than on issues related to their children. If you are trying to work out child custody questions, you may spend a good amount of time in mediation discussing the pros and cons of various options. This time will probably be well spent, though, as you'll end up with a plan that works for everyone.
- How willing you each are to compromise. A mediator doesn't tell you what to do, doesn't make orders, and doesn't force compromise. Instead, the mediator helps you communicate and negotiate in order to reach a mutually acceptable resolution. If you are both committed to arriving at a solution quickly and making mediation work, and you are each willing to give a little to find middle ground, mediation can progress very quickly. If you are each determined to have things your own way, you're unlikely to make speedy progress.
Working with an experienced mediator can lead to a smooth and effective process. If you have an attorney, the lawyer can help you understand the laws in your state and coach you through the negotiations. Learn more about mediation and collaborative divorce.