If you and your spouse have decided to get a divorce, you might be wondering whether it’s best to go through mediation or let the courts rule on issues such as property division and child custody in a formal legal proceeding.
In Colorado, mediation may be a required first step before you can have a contested court hearing, depending on the county. However, if mediation doesn’t work, you can hire an attorney and go to court to finalize your divorce.
This article explains the key differences between divorce mediation vs lawyer in Denver Colorado, and how to decide which route is best for you.
What is Mediation?
The mediation process involves a neutral third party who resolves a claim. Mediators are used in a variety of applications, including insurance, construction, workplace disputes, and divorce.
Typically, a single mediator will facilitate the discussion and negotiations, and each party can bring an attorney to represent them in the sessions. An attorney is optional, though recommended.
The role of the divorce mediator is to help the spouses find common ground and negotiate the terms of a divorce so that both parties “win” as much as possible. By compromising, couples can avoid bitter, contentious divorces that drag on and drain resources.
It’s important to note that any decision made in the mediation process is not legally binding. However, in the case of a divorce, if the couples agree to the outcome of mediation, an attorney can submit a Memorandum of Understanding to the court to create a legally binding order.
How Divorce Mediation is Different than Traditional Divorce
From a big-picture standpoint, the biggest difference between divorce mediation and traditional divorce is the goal of the exercise and where the events take place.
In the case of mediation, you and your spouse will meet with a mediator and try to come to a resolution where both parties are relatively satisfied with the terms of a divorce. Mediation is done outside of the courtroom.
By contrast, a traditional divorce involves your attorney and your spouse’s attorney representing each of you and trying to secure the best deal possible by dividing assets and coming to a final arrangement for child custody.
In short, while mediation allows you and your spouse to agree to terms, when you go to court, a judge makes the final order, which, to some extent, strips people of control over their lives.
The most notable differences between mediation and divorce are:
- Professionals involved: In a divorce, there are attorneys representing each side, but attorneys may or may not be involved in mediation.
- Dynamics: A mediator is a neutral third party. Mediators do not take sides or give legal advice.
- Strategy: While a divorce attorney will fight to protect your interests, a mediator encourages each couple to come to a mutually beneficial arrangement.
- Confidentiality: Anything discussed in mediation is private and confidential, but divorce proceedings are a matter of public record.
- Timeframe: On average, there are between two to four mediation sessions over the course of several months, while a divorce that is resolved in court can take anywhere from 18 months to three years.
- Cost: Divorce mediation tends to cost between $7,000 and $10,000, while a divorce can cost anywhere from $20,000 to $200,000.
- Risk vs. certainty: Going to court can be risky because you are at the mercy of a judge, who makes a legally binding order that both spouses must adhere to. Mediation, on the other hand, allows both spouses to negotiate and arrive at a compromise together.
- Tone: Divorce court tends to create winners and losers, and the battle can get ugly. Compare this to mediation, where the goal is to find an arrangement that both parties can comfortably live with.
4 Signs Mediation May Be Right for You
If you’re still not sure whether mediation is the right route for you, consider these four situations where mediation could be ideal:
- You have children: Children can get the short end of the stick in a divorce, as they’re shuffled between homes and feel like they have little say in the matter. In the case of a divorce handled by the courts, this is absolutely true.
However, in mediation, you and your spouse can work together to find a situation that is comfortable and minimizes disruption for your children.
- You can talk things out: Couples divorce for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they can’t be in the same room together, but other times, they have merely grown apart while still maintaining goodwill and affection.
If you are able to maintain a civil relationship and negotiate on friendly terms, mediation may be preferable to formal court proceedings.
- You’re on a budget: Given that mediation is often significantly less expensive than going to court, you might prefer this route if you are looking to save money on your divorce.
- You want to resolve things quickly: Court dockets are crowded, and divorce proceedings can take months (or years). For a streamlined divorce, mediation might be the fastest route.
When to Avoid Mediation
There is no one-size-fits-all solution for dissolving a marriage, and mediation isn’t right for everyone. If any of the situations below apply to you, mediation might not be a good fit:
- There is domestic violence in your relationship
- Your spouse is mentally incapacitated, either through a neurological condition or substance abuse
- You believe your spouse is hiding assets to avoid a fair distribution of marital property
- Either your or your spouse is not willing to peacefully discuss the terms of the divorce for mediation purposes
Divorce is difficult, both emotionally and financially. While no one can guarantee that a mediation is pleasant or feels like a vacation, working with a mediator can relieve some of the tension and put you in more control of the terms of your divorce.
If you are getting a divorce and wondering if mediation is right for you, please don’t hesitate to contact the attorneys at Shapiro Family Law for more information.