Alternatives to the courts for legal separation are called mediation and determining early on if this arrangement is right for you can be important to moving forward. The relationship you have with your spouse might determine much of this, but the expected outcome is what is most important. Mediation does not substitute having or using a lawyer as part of the process. But if you and your spouse can work together to reach a fair settlement on most or all of the issues in your divorce (eg., child custody, child support, alimony, and property division), choosing mediation to resolve your divorce case may save thousands of dollars in legal fees and emotional aggravation.
The mediation process involves a neutral third-party mediator (an experienced family law attorney trained in mediation) that meets with the divorcing couple and helps them reach an agreement on the issues in their divorce. Every mediation firm will have its process for working through issues, both financial and legal as they separate assets. It’s important to have a good understanding of the current and future valuations of assets during this process and with a mediator who uses a financial expert to support these calculations.
Mediation is completely voluntary and this course can be abandoned in favor of the courts if the parties cannot agree, or if one or both parties are uncooperative. The mediator should not act as a judge, or insist on any particular outcome or agreement.
Mediation also provides divorcing couples a lot of flexibility, in terms of making their own decisions about what works best for their family, compared with the traditional adversarial legal process, which involves a court trial where a judge makes all the decisions.
Mediation, however, is not appropriate for all couples. For example, if one spouse is hiding assets or income, and refuses to come clean, you may have to head to court where a judge can order your spouse to comply. Or, if one spouse is unwilling to compromise, mediation probably won’t work.