Mediation is an alternative to divorce litigation. Usually, the husband and wife will meet with the mediator without the presence of their respective attorneys. The mediator is a mutual third party whose job it is to facilitate agreement on the various issues. The mediator is not an advocate for either party and is not a marriage counselor. Instead of each spouse hiring their own attorney to reach resolution on all the issues, the husband and wife hire one mediator to deal with that aspect of the divorce.
Assuming the mediation is successful, the mediator will prepare what is called a Memorandum of Understanding. A Memorandum of Understanding is merely a letter outlining what the parties have agreed to. At this point, each party brings the Memorandum of Understanding to their own respective attorney. The attorney’s role is limited to that of an adviser. The attorney will go over the Memorandum of Understanding with the client to be sure that the client understands the terms of the proposed settlement. The attorney will also advise the client as to the pros and cons of each provision in the proposed settlement. Assuming the proposed settlement is acceptable to both sides, one of the attorneys will convert the Memorandum of Understanding into a legally binding and enforceable Marital Settlement Agreement. Once the form of the Marital Settlement Agreement is satisfactory to both sides, both spouses and their attorneys sign the Marital Settlement Agreement. Assuming one of the attorneys has started the filing process, that is the filing of the Complaint for Divorce, and the other side has responded, upon request of the attorney for either side, the Court will schedule the matter for an Uncontested Hearing. While an appearance before the Court may be necessary, there will be no court litigation and no trial. If an appearance before the Court is required, it will only take about one-half hour. There will be some basic questions to prove to the Court that all statutory requirements have been met and to enable the Court to incorporate the Marital Settlement Agreement into your Judgment of Divorce.
The mediation process usually takes much less time than the time it takes to resolve all issues in litigated cases. Mediation also tends to be far less expensive than litigated divorces.