Mediation is an effective way for divorcing couples to rein in costs—and maybe speed up the process. At The Peck Law Firm, our legal team is happy to offer mediation services to those who want to divorce without breaking the bank. If you and your spouse are arguing about custody, support, or the division of your marital estate, mediation can help break logjams and get everyone on the same page.
Please contact us to learn more. One of our Summerville divorce mediation lawyers can explain the mediation process in more detail.
What is Mediation?
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution. When couples disagree about any of the following, they can end up in court:
- Grounds for divorce
- Child custody
- Child support
- Division of marital assets and debts
If you can reach agreement on all issues, then you can submit your settlement agreement to a judge for approval. Although judges scrutinize these agreements, they usually sign off, and you can be on your way as a newly single person.
Mediation is the process of meeting informally with a mediator and your spouse. You talk about the divorce, including your goals and disagreements. By listening to both of you, a mediator might see solutions that you and your spouse cannot. Mediators are also trained on getting couples to listen to each other and find common ground.
Who is the Mediator?
A mediator is a neutral third party. They don’t represent either side. Their role is to help guide discussion and negotiation between spouses.
A mediator doesn’t act like a judge, and they don’t decide which side is “right.” Instead, the mediator works to nudge squabbling couples to find agreement on various issues.
Mediators in Summerville are trained and certified. You can choose your mediator in consultation with your spouse or have a judge pick someone if you can’t agree.
Is Mediation Expensive?
It’s not free. Most trained mediators charge by the hour, so remember to ask about rates when calling.
If you don’t want to pay for a mediator, then you can try to negotiate on your own. But many couples struggle. They actually benefit from the guidance a mediator provides. Alternatively, you might litigate before a judge, who will ultimately decide contested issues. But litigation is expensive and costs at least $10,000 for most divorces and even $20,000 or more.
Why is Litigation so Expensive?
Litigation takes a lot of time, and your divorce lawyer will probably charge by the hour:
- Discovery. You can request documents from your spouse. You also need to supply requested documents. As part of discovery, you might sit for a deposition under oath. This fact gathering is time intensive and can go on for months.
- Pretrial hearings. Judges usually schedule multiple hearings in the run up to trial, and your lawyer attends all of them
- Home study. The judge might request that parents undergo psychological evaluation, provide urine samples for drug tests, and have a home study. These steps take time.
- Trial preparation. Your lawyer needs to fully prepare for a divorce trial. Interviewing witnesses, creating exhibits, and researching legal issues can take weeks. The trial itself might take days.
A contested divorce can take a year or more of extensive legal work. That’s why it is expensive.
Is Mediation Always Successful?
No. Couples sometimes just can’t agree on everything. Still, you might reach agreement on a few issues, like child support and child custody. But you still disagree on alimony. Even finding agreement on one or more issues can save time and shave thousands of dollars off your divorce bill.
What are the Benefits of Mediation versus Litigation?
In addition to saving time and money, you can also craft a divorce that meets your needs. One complicated issue is custody. Working with a mediator, you can carve out time for each parent to spend meaningful time with the kids. If a judge decides custody, he might rely on a template to divide time—and that type of arrangement might work for no one.
Mediation also allows for creative solutions. As an example, instead of accepting alimony, you might take a larger portion of marital assets. A judge might not come up with this type of resolution.
There is also something empowering about working together with your spouse to create a parenting plan. You will have more incentive to stick with it. Some parents gain mutual respect and appreciation for the other through the mediation process. Fewer disputes arise later when coparenting.
There are some benefits to litigation, though—at least for some people. Your spouse might be stubborn. Mediation requires compromise, and not all spouses are up to the challenge. When the other side won’t budge an inch, you might need to litigate to protect your interests.
You might also need to forgo mediation if your spouse has been abusive. You might even have a restraining order, which makes mediation impossible.
Are You Required to Participate in Mediation?
Possibly. In Charleston County family court, judges will send couples to mediation if they disagree on issues like custody. If you don’t even try mediation, a judge could hold you in contempt.
Participation doesn’t mean you have to accept any suggestion put forward by your spouse or the mediator. You can always get up and walk away if you are unhappy. So mediation is voluntary in that respect. No one forces a solution on you.
We highly recommend that spouses make a good faith effort to mediate. Keep an open mind and try to maintain flexibility. Compromise is at the heart of mediation, and you are unlikely to be successful without it.
Can Our Summerville Divorce Mediation Lawyer Help You?
Yes. Our law firm has years of experience in mediation. Give us a call. We can walk you through the mediation services we provide and help you think if this is an option for you. We can then talk about fees and whether you want to hire us as a mediator. For help with your case, please contact us today to find out more.