3 Stages of Family Mediation

1. Mediated Separation

Couples often separate prior to the dissolution/divorce taking place, the earlier in the process that couples attend mediation, the more satisfied they report being with the process. At the time of separation there are many decisions to be made that mediators can help facilitate, though these are often short-term solutions and agreements they are often necessary in supporting parties and families through this transitional period and time.  Common topics include living situation/housing during the transition, initial separating of financial accounts, financial support, and parenting time during the transition. Again, these are often short-term agreements, lasting only until final agreements are solidified through the dissolution/divorce process, that said, they are an imperative part of the transition that support an overall successful process.

As couples progress through the process they move forward with either a dissolution of marriage or a divorce.

2. Mediated Dissolution and Divorce

A dissolution of marriage is a procedure that is used when the parties are able to make decisions without court intervention. Through a dissolution of marriage parties may eliminate much of the divorce process and expense, additionally the majority opinion is that a dissolution of marriage, when possible, is far easier on families than a divorce. The parties might retain attorneys, but most commonly limited service attorneys for the purpose of formalizing their agreement and providing advice on family law. There are no grounds required for dissolution of marriage, therefore it is commonly referred to as a no-fault divorce. Only at the end of the process does the court get involved for the purpose of actually terminating the marriage; a dissolution petition is filed with the court only once the parties have reached an agreement on all the issues that must be addressed.

A divorce is an adversarial family law court proceeding, in which the parties cannot come to an amicable agreement about the end of their marriage. One party files a lawsuit against the other, asking for the court to rule on the case and decide issues like custody, the division of property and finances and other matters.

The end result of a dissolution of marriage and a divorce is the same:  the marriage is terminated.

A mediator facilitates the dissolution through supporting parties in reaching all the relevant agreements that need to be reached prior to filing their dissolution of marriage. Through the divorce process a mediator’s efforts are the same, to support parties in reaching amicable agreements and, in the case of divorce, the goal is furthermore to keep the case from having to be tried in court, which would put the final decision out of their hands and in the hands of a judge.

3. Post Decree Mediation

Post decree mediation refers to mediation that takes place any time after the divorce or dissolution has been finalized. As the realities of life unfold it is common that agreements need to be revisited and adjusted. Sometimes there are changes in work schedules, a new relationship, relocation, changes in the children, or just general parenting decisions that need to be revisited in mediation so amicable agreements and solutions can be reached. Under this umbrella, a mediator can be extremely supportive in facilitating annual co-parenting meetings.

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