Divorce does not exactly have a friendly reputation. Many couples who are about to divorce brace themselves for a painful, acrimonious process. It doesn’t necessarily have to be this way. There are alternatives to a contentious divorce for couples who are committed to remaining amicable– or at least polite.
One of these alternatives is a process called mediation. Mediation is when divorcing spouses sit down with a neutral mediator to negotiate the terms of their divorce. Because mediation is not as well known as litigation, there are several persistent myths that surround it. If you are divorcing, you should know these common myths about the mediation process.
Myth: You have to get along with your spouse to mediate
Fact: Spouses do not necessarily have to be on good terms to settle a divorce in mediation. Amicability between spouses does help in mediation, but it is not crucial. The purpose of the mediator is to facilitate conversation between two people who do not always get along. Even if you and your spouse frequently fight, mediation may still be a viable option.
Myth: The mediator is like a therapist
Fact: A mediator is not a couples therapist or marriage counselor. Rather, a mediator is someone who understands the state’s divorce laws and has experience helping couples reach a mutually satisfactory divorce agreement. Mediators are often divorce attorneys who work with couples to negotiate an arrangement out of court.
Myth: It’s necessary to fight in court
Fact: A spouse can often reach a favorable settlement in mediation. Indeed, mediation can sometimes reach an agreement that is more beneficial than a court decision would have been. This can apply to property division, alimony payments, child support and child custody.
Myth: Mediation is better than litigation
Fact: Mediation sounds appealing to many couples because it is private, cordial and less expensive. Still, there are some situations in which mediation is not the right choice. When a spouse is abusive, a spouse has a substance abuse problem or a spouse is hiding assets, mediation simply may not work. Spouses who are wondering whether mediation is a good choice for them should consult a skilled divorce attorney or mediator.