Divorce court proceedings are usually formal, expensive, and stressful. That's why many people look for a different way to get through the divorce process.
In divorce mediation, a neutral professional helps you and your spouse resolve important issues like alimony, child custody, and child support. Couples who reach agreement through this process get to skip the expense and stress of a court battle to resolve these sorts of issues. Mediating spouses can get to a settlement through one of two ways: in-person or online sessions.
You can mediate your divorce online with either an individual mediator or an online divorce mediation service. If you want to hire an individual, you can research the mediator's background, qualifications, and personality.
If you consider a mediation service, you can read up on the company and the qualifications of its mediators. If you decide to try the service, the company might assign your case to a mediator based on your responses to some basic questions. (A mediator assigned by the service might be a good option if you and your spouse aren't likely to agree on a particular professional.) The same mediator often handles your case from start to finish.
The cost of online mediation can depend on how complicated the mediator or service thinks your divorce will be. The mediator or service might ask about your finances, how much property you own, and whether you have children. You might have to answer these questions online or discuss your situation in a brief, free call. Or you might simply look at the packages the provider offers and choose the one that applies to your situation.
Regardless of the way you get your pricing information, you'll probably be looking at a flat fee quote. The flat fee normally covers a bundle of services that might include a particular number of sessions and the drafting of a marital settlement agreement. (Some mediation providers can also file the papers with the court for you.) Also, many online divorce mediators offer a-la-carte services—you can choose to add services, such as another mediation session if you need it.
Once you've decided on the mediation package, you might have to pay the entire fee up front, although some services will accept a down payment. Before paying, you'll want to know whether partial or full refunds are possible. For example, what happens if you come to an agreement in one mediation session instead of the two that you've paid for, or if you and your spouse can't reach an agreement? You'll also want to know whether additional charges could come into play. For instance, what if you need more mediation hours?
Many online mediators use a computer program designed specifically for online mediation. Most programs are browser based, meaning you can access them from any computer, tablet, or phone as long as you have an Internet connection.
Most mediators who use online mediation programs require you to use the program for most if not all communication. But it's not a bad idea to ask whether other forms of communication, like emails, phone calls, or texts, are available.
Once you create a profile in the program, you can use it to send the mediator notes and questions. You can also use it to upload any documents needed for the mediation. For example, the mediator might ask you to submit a written statement (for the mediator's eyes only) about your concerns, needs, and goals for the mediation.
It's the policy of most mediators to keep all of your pre-mediation communication confidential, but you should confirm that your mediation provider follows that approach. You should be able to submit materials to the mediator privately and securely, in a way that doesn't let your spouse see them without your permission.
Online divorce mediators use a variety of web-based programs to conduct the actual mediation. The computer program you use for the mediation might be the same one you've already been using to communicate with your mediator, or it might be another user-friendly program like Zoom or GoToMeeting. Although most programs allow for video conferencing, you'll probably be given the option to participate by phone if that's your preference.
A typical mediation session works like this:
What happens after your online mediation depends on what services you've paid for and whether you resolved all the issues in your divorce. If you're not able to come to an agreement during the mediation sessions you've already paid for, you might be able to book an additional session, assuming you, your spouse, and the mediator think it would be helpful.
After a successful mediation, some mediators prepare and file the paperwork that finalizes the divorce with the court. Others leave the paperwork and filing to you and your spouse.
You'll want to be clear about the scope of your mediator's services before you participate in the mediation. If your mediator doesn't prepare and file post-mediation paperwork and you don't wish to do it yourself, ask the mediator for recommendations for resources for finalizing the paperwork.
Online mediation will work for many divorces, but it might not be ideal for every situation. Consider these pros and cons of mediating online to decide if it's right for you.
Potential benefits of mediating your divorce online include:
Some people would rather go through the mediation process in person. Think about the following to determine whether you're one of them.
Finally, some types of divorces don't lend themselves to online mediation. Often, these are the same types of divorces for which mediation in general won't work. These situations include marriages where the spouses are extremely combative, where there's ongoing domestic violence, where one spouse can't locate the other spouse, and where there are complex business and financial concerns that will require lots of experts and documentation.
You and your spouse will need to work together to some degree to begin the online mediation process. You‘ll have to agree to mediate, and to do the mediation online. The two of you might have to discuss how to go about finding a mediator or mediation service—perhaps each spouse can propose a few options.
Lastly, many people choose mediation precisely because they don't want to deal with courts and lawyers. But some people can afford and want to have a lawyer's advice while going through mediation process. If that's you, an attorney can help you weigh the pros and cons of mediating your divorce online and might be able to provide some recommendations for online mediators. The lawyer might also be able to help you work out any disagreements with your spouse about mediating online or choosing a mediator.