In Arizona, the family courts encourage the use of mediation to resolve disputes, including the issues of divorce. Any issue can be voluntarily mediated, either by the parties’ consent or a court order.
Mediation is a confidential process handled by a neutral third party called a mediator. Rather than judging between the positions taken by the parties, a mediator helps the parties come to their own, shared resolution. Mediators help the parties communicate effectively and address the underlying issues of the dispute.
You can generally opt for mediation at any time during the dispute resolution process. You and your ex can agree on a particular mediator or ask the court to appoint one for you.
What are the advantages of mediation?
There are many. One that many people notice is that it can be a great deal less expensive than a divorce trial, even if you retain attorneys. This is because mediation is a less formal process than courtroom litigation and often takes much less time.
You can generally reach a final agreement more quickly in mediation than you could get a divorce decree through a trial. You’ll spend much less time waiting for a date with a mediator than you would a court date. That typically means less time in “divorce limbo,” where you’ve made the decision to end your marriage but can’t yet move on with your life.
Mediation is confidential, which is important. What you discuss in mediation is not admissible in court. You won’t be giving away your position if you try mediation and it does not work out.
Mediators have wider latitude over the final result. When people use mediation, they are often refreshingly surprised by the kinds of results that are available in mediation. In court, judges only have the authority to take certain actions. Mediation results in a contract between the parties, and that contract can say virtually anything you like, as long as it complies with Arizona family law. So, rather than having a stranger rule for or against you, you can have help resolving your issues from the ground up. And, people are more likely to comply with their divorce decrees and parenting orders when they have had a say over them.
If mediation does not work out, you can still go to a court to have your issues resolved. Most people find, however, that the results they can get in mediation are far more tailored to their actual situation.
When is mediation not recommended?
If there are good reasons to believe that one party will not negotiate in good faith during mediation, or if a party has committed domestic violence or child abuse, mediation may not be for you. It is important for both parties to be on equal footing and to have a basic sense of trust that the other party will be honest and attempt to comply with the resulting agreement.
You can have your divorce mediated without an attorney, but you should always have an experienced divorce lawyer review your agreement before submitting it to a court. This is to ensure that you have complied with the law and considered all of the issues.