Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution that can be very effective in helping couples resolve issues pertaining to a divorce. Mediation allows the spouses to present their point of view in a safe and supported space with a neutral facilitator, often leading to better understanding between the parties. When the parties better understand the other’s position, they often can agree on issues that were formerly in dispute.

Contact a Fairfield mediation lawyer if you are having a problem settling your divorce. An experienced divorce attorney can help you resolve any lingering issues so that you can move forward.

Understanding the Role of Mediation in Divorce

A mediator is a neutral third party in a conversation between the spouses. Their job is not to encourage either party to change their position, but instead, to help the parties really hear what the other is saying and find common ground between them. Many couples can build on this common ground to reach a mutually agreeable compromise on issues that divide them.

A Fairfield attorney does not offer or provide legal advice when serving as a mediator. They do not have a lawyer/client relationship with either party. Their legal knowledge can help them guide the parties, and if the mediator offers a form of mediation called evaluative mediation, they may offer opinions about how a court might view an issue. Each party should have independent legal counsel review any agreements the mediation produces.

With only limited exceptions described in Connecticut General Statutes § 52-235d, the mediation process is confidential. If mediation fails, neither party can use anything the other said or material presented at the mediation as evidence in their divorce trial. The privacy of mediation makes it an attractive option for high-net-worth couples and people in the public eye.

How Divorce Mediation Works

There is a misconception that couples must be on the same page about most issues and able to communicate well for mediation to be effective. Certainly, mediation is unlikely to be successful if one or both parties are determined to “win” or to punish each other. However, even couples who have trouble communicating can make mediation work for them if both are motivated to finalize the divorce.

There are two scenarios in which mediators can be helpful during a divorce.

Uncontested Divorce

Connecticut law allows couples to apply for an uncontested divorce when they agree on all relevant issues—property division, alimony, child support, and custody. They submit their signed agreements with the divorce petition, and after review, the judge could issue a divorce decree without a hearing. Couples seeking an uncontested divorce by agreement avoid the 90-day waiting period that usually delays the effective date of a divorce decree.

Many couples find it helpful to meet with a mediator before either of them files for divorce to attempt to work out any disagreement and thereby take advantage of the uncontested divorce process. Doing the work of negotiation before filing allows the couple to accomplish their divorce more quickly, less expensively, and with less stress and potential bitterness.

Contested Divorce

Couples sometimes attempt mediation before filing for divorce, and it fails. Other couples head immediately to court once they have decided their marriage is over. In either case, a contested divorce means that one of the spouses has filed for divorce, but the couple is still disputing one or more issues that must be resolved before a divorce can become final.

When couples are in a contested, litigated divorce, mediation is often their last chance to avoid a trial. Courts in Fairfield sometimes order the couple to try mediation before they schedule a trial, but the couple is always free to mediate while the divorce is pending. Reaching an agreement in mediation avoids the delay and expense of a trial and keeps the decisions in the hands of the parties.

Mediation Is Sometimes Inadvisable

Although mediation can be a powerful tool to assist divorcing couples, it is not right for every situation. Mediation is ineffective when one party is unwilling to cooperate with the process or is unable to do so because of mental health issues or substance misuse. Refusing to listen, coming late or unprepared, or an inability to focus on issues under discussion can derail a mediation.

Mediation is ineffective if one spouse has shut down emotionally and cannot assert their position or state their needs. Although the mediator is trained in equalizing power imbalances, each party must feel safe enough to explain their goals and must-haves.

Divorces involving significant disparities in the parties’ understanding of the issues or domestic violence may not be appropriate for mediation. Some mediators adapt to high-conflict situations by working with each party separately, but others will not accept cases where one party is fearful or substantially disadvantaged. A spouse concerned that mediation may not be the best option for them should have a candid conversation with a qualified mediation lawyer in Fairfield before scheduling a session.

Explore Divorce Mediation With a Fairfield Attorney

Mediation works effectively for many couples, not just those already on the same page. Working with a skilled mediator is a cost-effective way to speed up a divorce.

A Fairfield mediation lawyer can explain their process and help you explore whether mediation is the right option for you. Call today to get started.

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