1. How is mediation different than litigation?
Mediation is a collaborative process in which the parties work together to reach an amicable solution for their legal issue while litigation is a contested process in which the parties are treated as adversaries. There is little communication between the parties during litigation and their attorneys represent their positions and interests. In mediation, the parties uncover their mutual interests and try to reach a settlement outside of court while litigation is a battle inside court.
2. What are the advantages of family mediation?
Mediation is particularly suited to resolve family matters because it focuses on minimizing the conflict between the parties. This often allows spouses to leave on better terms and to act as better co-parents with each other after the issues are resolved. Family mediation can also resolve problems faster so that the impact on the children is minimized. Additionally, it improves communication between the parties and gives them a process that they can use later on if a problem arises.
3. Is family mediation cheaper than using lawyers to handle a divorce?
Family mediation is usually cheaper than using lawyers for a contentious divorce. Spouses can often reach common ground on many of the legal issues involved in their case, including agreeing to a custody arrangement, amount of child support, property division and spousal support. This can help transform a contested divorce or custody case to an uncontested one in which the parties simply ask the judge to enter the agreement as a court order, if necessary. Probate costs can be split between the parties. Litigation is often expensive because multiple costs and fees may be incurred by both parties, such as attorney’s fees, discovery costs, expert witness fees and potentially fees to pay for a guardian ad litem to represent the interests of the child involved.
4. When is divorce mediation not appropriate?
Divorce mediation is not appropriate in all cases, including those that involve domestic violence, when one party is actively hiding information or when one party exerts much control over the other one. Parties should be on equal footing when engaged in the mediation process.
5. What if my partner or ex-partner is completely irrational and unmovable?
Sometimes parties may start out as irrational or unmovable. However, a good mediator can often provide useful information to get the party to reconsider information, such as legal standards, recent court rulings on similar issues and the consequences of not reaching an agreement out of court. Additionally, the mediator can separate the parties during mediation so that they do not directly interact with each other. The mediator can communicate information back and forth between the parties until a final agreement is reached. This approach may help when the parties have trouble communicating together.
6. If I already have a lawyer, is it too late to mediate my case?
No. Mediation can be used at any point during the process. Additionally, many people bring their lawyer with them to mediation so that they are aware of their rights and the ramifications of making different agreements during this process.
7. What if we cannot agree on all issues?
Even if you cannot agree on every issue involved in your case, mediation can still be an effective process. Many parties are able to resolve their case shortly after participating in mediation because they were able to agree on key issues and they realized the importance of maintaining control over their case rather than having a judge make a decision on it. Even if the case is not ultimately settled, the parties can reach an agreement on certain issues so the remainder of the time is only devoted to resolving the contested issues.
8. Will I be left with a legally binding agreement in divorce mediation?
A mediated agreement is usually binding as a separate contract. However, most parties will submit their agreement to the family court so that it can be incorporated as an official court order. If either party violates the terms of the agreement, they can ask the court for relief.
9. What happens after divorce mediation?
After divorce mediation, the parties sign an agreement that summarizes their agreement. They then usually submit this agreement to the court so that is can be incorporated into an official court order that is binding upon the parties.
10. Can child support payments be made directly between parents or do they have to be paid through the state?
As of July 1998, Virginia law required all income withholding orders for child support to be paid through the state’s child support clearinghouse. It can be helpful to enlist the assistance of the Division of Child Support Enforcement since additional enforcement actions become necessary due to non-payment. That being said, parents can make agreements between themselves regarding child support if these agreements do not income an income withholding provision. However, detailed records will need to be kept and a court may later make an official order that is different from the agreement between the parties.