by Pamela A. Liberty
What is Mediation?
Mediation is a non-adversarial process for resolving the issues that arise when a married couple decides to divorce. Instead of hiring attorneys, and preparing a case to be presented to a judge, mediation involves a series of meetings with an experienced professional who can help you reach a fair resolution of the issues in your divorce, prepare the necessary paperwork to finalize your agreements, and ensure that you comply with the procedural rules that govern divorce in Arizona.
When is Mediation appropriate?
Mediation is not right for every couple, but it is a quicker, less expensive and far less adversarial approach for people considering divorce. Mediation is not appropriate when the goal of one party is to cause emotional or financial harm to the other. In those cases, the tools of litigation (depositions, subpoenas, extensive discovery or forensic review of assets and/or income) may be needed. For those who wish to part ways with a minimum of expense and emotional upheaval, mediation works.
How Does Mediation Work?
Instead of hiring two attorneys, a couple retains one mediator. It is important the mediator have an extensive background in family law and is familiar with the procedural and substantive rules that govern the process. A skilled mediator can help to obtain a fair valuation of assets, suggest parenting time plans that meet the needs of both parents and their children, and is familiar with tax and support issues unique to family law.
Mediation consists of a series of meetings at which necessary court documents are prepared and signed; issues are discussed and resolved; and a final Marital Settlement Agreement, which defines all of the couples’ rights and responsibilities are outlined, is drafted, vetted and signed. The mediator is a neutral guide and document preparer. The parties to the process are the decision-makers.
What does mediation cost?
The fee for up to five two-hour mediation sessions is $2,000 per person or $4,000.00 per couple, plus filing fees mandated by the Court. This fee includes preparation of all standard paperwork necessary to initiate and finalize your divorce. Couples who resolve their divorce issues in mediation do not ever appear in court. Oftentimes, couples use mediation as a way to resolve certain post-decree matters, such as an adjustment in child support. These sessions are billed at the rate of $250 per hour.
What is the time commitment?
Much of the work that needs to be done will take place outside of mediation. You will be provided with materials to complete regarding your assets and income and may also receive written materials on parenting post-divorce or, in particular cases, case law or other substantive articles. Although the length of time it takes to finalize a divorce depends on the complexity of the issues involved, mediation should generally be completed within two to four months.
A typical mediation takes about 60 to 90 days to complete. Mediation consists of up to 5 two-hour meetings, scheduled about two weeks apart.
Should all couples consider mediation as an alternative to litigation?
Mediation is not for everyone. It may be inappropriate where there has been significant domestic violence; where one party has an unacknowledged substance abuse problem or suffers from certain kinds of mental illness; or where either spouse believes or suspects that the other intends to hide assets or be untruthful about their value. The presence of conflict however, even deeply rooted conflict, should not be cause to eliminate mediation as an option. National statistics show that 3 of 4 couples who try mediation resolve their divorce issues through this process. At Liberty, Audette and Manzi, P.C., the percentage of couples who have been able to completely resolve their divorce action through mediation exceeds ninety-five percent (95%).
If you would like to learn more about divorce mediation, contact the law offices of Liberty, Audette and Manzi, P.C. at 520-322-9003 to set up a no charge one-half hour consultation for you and your spouse.
What is the success rate of the mediation process?
More than 95% of the couples who begin mediation are able to resolve all of their disputes in this process.
To learn more about divorce mediation, call 520-322-9003 to set up a no charge one-half hour consultation for you and your spouse.
Divorce Mediation Resources
Prof. Robert Emery–Children Benefit When Parents Use Mediation
Longitudinal Study of the Impact on Children When Their Parents Divorce Using Mediation.