You have several options if you are considering filing for a divorce in Tennessee.
In addition to the traditional method of filing for divorce in a court and letting a judge decide issues of asset division, child custody and spousal support, a relatively new process for resolving the issues that arise in a divorce is family law mediation.
What Is Family Law Mediation?
From a legal perspective, mediation refers to a type of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) where parties to a lawsuit, pending divorce or associated family law issue, collaborate with a neutral third-party in an attempt to settle the dispute outside of the courtroom. The goal is to reach a mutual resolution or settlement to the case. The aforementioned third-party is referred to as a “mediator,” whose role is to assist the couple to understand each other’s positions and concerns and then manage the negotiation of a mutually agreeable solution.
In Tennessee, domestic mediators are certified professionals that manage negotiations between couples in order to assist the parties in reaching a mutually agreeable resolution. Mediators do not provide legal counsel; rather they offer generalized guidance regarding the judicial process to help all interested parties reach a timely workable solution, prior to incurring the time and cost of a trial.
The main issues addressed during the mediation process include the terms of divorce, how to divide assets, how children will be cared for after the divorce and support of children and spouse(s) during and after the process. Mediators help you resolve the terms of your marital dissolution agreement and/or parenting plan.
When Should I Start Mediation?
You should start mediation as soon as you and your spouse can mutually agree to attempt to resolve your issues collaboratively outside of the formal litigation process. It is essential to fully explore the option of mediation prior to the litigation process. For the litigation process generally creates hostility between the spouses and causes the attorneys to initiate the costly discovery stage of litigation. Taking advantage of this amicable relationship while it lasts increases your chances of mediation achieving its ultimate goal: a mutually agreed-upon settlement without the cost, stress, and time of going to trial.
Is Mediation Always Effective?
Although no conflict resolution approach boasts a 100% track record when it comes to effectiveness, the percentage of successful mediations significantly outweigh those of litigation. This can mainly be attributed to the fact that, in mediation, each spouse “wins.” This is because the settlement is mutually created and agreed upon; whereas, in litigation, there can only be one true “winner.”
How Many Mediation Sessions Will It Take To Reach A Settlement?
The number of sessions you and your spouse will require in order to reach a comprehensive and mutually agreeable settlement depends on a number of factors: the amount and complexity of issues and concerns to be addressed, how cooperative each party is, and the willingness of each spouse to conduct negotiations in good faith. With all that being said, statistical data compiled by the Academy of Professional Family Mediators indicates that the average family mediation process takes as few as one to three meetings; whereas a typical traditional divorce negotiation process averages about eight sessions for parties to finalize the settlement process.
Why Choose Family Law Mediation?
Mediation provides spouses with more autonomy over their case and affords everyone involved more privacy. Beneficial aspects of mediation include having direct input and control over the process and result, including what happens to your property and children. Mediation will also save you time and money and is less disruptive than a traditional courtroom divorce for all parties involved.
Is Mediation Right For You?
Mediation is entered into on a voluntary basis. You should consider whether you and your partner would be able to hold constructive discussions to reach an agreement that is acceptable to both of you. Even if either you or your spouse have already retained an attorney, mediation still remains an option. You can keep legal counsel or hire a lawyer to advise you on how to best prepare for the mediation process and then use that information to complete the majority of the negotiations yourself – which will significantly lower your expenses.
Contact us if you would like additional details regarding the mediation process. The Supreme Court of Tennessee Alternative Dispute Resolution Commission have formally approved every member of our mediation team. Our mediators are prepared to review your case with you and assist you in deciding if mediation is a viable option for resolving your case.