Frequently Asked Mediation Questions for Divorcing Couples
Divorcing Couples Mediation FAQs ©2014 Adam L. Powers / MarksPowers LLP
We both agree we're getting divorced. Why mediate?
Once you're both in agreement that you need a divorce, several areas need to be discussed and resolved: You'll need to agree on how the property you legally own together (which may include property you don't consider to be shared!) must be divided up. You'll need to agree on how much alimony (or "Spousal Support") is to be paid, if any. If you have young children, you'll need to decide how care and decision-making for them is going to be shared, and you'll need to address child support payments. When parties cannot agree about how any of those factors should be resolved, they may end up having the issue decided for them in court by a judge. The court process is surprisingly difficult, expensive, and time consuming. Mediation is an alternative process that works to help people come to their own agreement. If a divorcing couple can agree as to all of the issues above, the family court may simply adopt the terms of the couple's agreement as the final divorce order.
Do we need lawyers?
Obtaining the advice of a good attorney is important: each spouse should have his or her own lawyer. Very often people are unaware of all of the rights they and their spouses have in a divorce. When you're working with your spouse to agree on the issues described above, you both need to know about those rights, and what kind of result a court might impose if you went to court, so you can compromise wisely.
Also, how you structure your agreement may have important tax consequences, may affect whether a court is likely to accept your agreement, or may result in an arrangement that has unintended legal or practical consequences.
Consulting an attorney is expensive, but the future benefits, in terms of money saved and stress avoided, far outweigh the costs.
Some people meet with an attorney at the outset to understand the process, then spend time among themselves to see what items they can agree upon without help, then meet with a mediator to resolve remaining issues, and finally consult with their attorney again to review the final agreement before signing it and finalize the divorce.
Some divorcing spouses prefer to work directly with an attorney for all stages of the process.
What can I do to learn about the divorce process on my own?
Your attorney or mediator will be happy to answer any questions you may have, but doing some homework beforehand will reduce both your costs and your stress level. We recommend reading a short book called Divorce in Vermont, which is a very helpful guide to the process. Divorce in Vermont is available at http://www.divorceinvermont.com . You can also call our offices and we'd be happy to send you a copy at our cost. Finally, the Vermont court system has a helpful F.A.Q. page at https://www.vermontjudiciary.org/GTC/Family/default-old.aspx .
What can we do to prepare for a Mediation?
Your time in mediation will be most efficient if you have thoroughly prepared beforehand. Based on your particular situation, you may need to complete a wide variety of forms and disclosures. Your mediator can provide you with the paperwork that will apply to your divorce. If you can complete some of that paperwork prior to meeting with your mediator, you'll be ready to maximize what you get out of the time you spend in mediation.