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What is divorce mediation?

Most domestic relations Court’s have a mediation department. Divorce mediation is essentially where you and your spouse sit down together with a person trained in mediation to attempt to resolve one, a few or all of the contested issues in your divorce. This will usually occur over several sessions and usually begins with the mediator meeting individually with each of the individual parties prior to a joint meeting. A mediator can assist in helping the parties to reach a resolution regarding division of debts, division of assets such as personal property, vehicles, real estate, retirement accounts, financial accounts, and other issues relating to the divorce. Mediators can also assist in helping the parties reach a resolution regarding allocation of parental rights and responsibilities for their minor children. A well-trained and experienced mediator can assist the parties in reaching a parenting arrangement regarding their children that gives both parents ample an appropriate time with their children and at the same time protects the best interest of the minor children. Mediation is usually not binding and confidential. What this means is that parties are free to enter into this mediation process with an open mind and without fear that what they may have agreed to could be used against them later if a global agreement is not reached and the matter were to go to a court trial. Mediators should not, and if they are not a lawyer cannot, give legal advice. It is recommended that before you engage in mediation with your spouse to speak with a lawyer who may advise you as to your rights and obligations in a divorce proceeding. Lawyers usually do not participate directly in the mediation process except that they may on occasion be asked to provide information to their clients or to the mediator to assist in the mediation. Mediation is usually significantly less expensive than negotiations through private attorneys. Mediation is also usually less time-consuming than using the courts mechanism of pretrial’s and settlement conferences in reaching a final resolution to your case. Mediation does require a few things in order to be successful. First you will have to go into the mediation with the understanding that you are not going to usually get everything you want. I usually advise clients to make a list of things that are essentials and things that are nonessentials. Second I advise clients to do their best to put aside their personal issues with the other spouse before entering into mediation. Often times divorces are difficult because one or both of the parties has been significantly hurt through the actions of the other during the marriage. Bitterness resentment and anger can often cloud a person’s judgment when it comes to making a fair and final resolution to the division of assets and debts of the marriage. Finally in order to be successful there must be an open, honest, and full disclosure of all the assets and debts of the marriage in order for there to be fair mediation. Before sending my clients to mediation I will usually make sure that my client has been provided with a full disclosure of the assets and debts of the marriage so when they enter into the mediation process they can do so with accurate and complete information. An experienced lawyer can guide you through the divorce process and most good lawyers will refer you to mediation if they believe it can be successful in resolving one, many or all of the issues in the divorce. Mediation though should never be used as a substitute for consulting with a lawyer to advise you as to what your rights and obligations are in a divorce proceeding. The Ohio State Bar Association has provided a law faxed pamphlet for more information on Divorce mediation.

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