In many ways, divorce is not what it used to be. Divorce laws have changed over the years and so has the divorce process in Arizona. If you and your spouse cannot agree on the terms of your divorce, you now have more options besides battling it out in court.
After you file for divorce, at some point you may be scheduled for a hearing before the judge before a formal divorce trial. The judge may require you to attend divorce mediation.
You and your spouse always have the option to mediate your divorce without being ordered by a court. No matter what route you take to divorce mediation, it is helpful to know what it is and what happens at it.
Understanding what mediation is
Mediation involves a meeting between you, your spouse and a mediator, who acts as a neutral third-party. The mediator’s job is to listen to both sides and offer guidance and proposed solutions to reach an agreement. A mediator is often a retired judge or someone who is already familiar with the legal process.
The goal of mediation is to reach a resolution to your divorce without having to go to court. This typically saves you and your spouse time, money and stress. Therefore, you should consider mediation and if you are ordered to mediate, make a good faith effort to resolve your divorce.
Preparing for mediation
About a week before your mediation, you and your spouse must present the mediator with a written statement documenting your position on each divorce issue. This helps the mediator to learn about the case before you sit down for the mediation and provides them with an idea of what the major issues are.
You and your spouse do not necessarily have to be in the same room during the mediation. This may come as a relief, since although you might want to try mediation, you may not want to sit in the same room as your spouse.
The mediator can split you up into two different rooms and go back and forth between rooms. If you have an attorney, your attorney will be in your room with you.
Remember that the mediator is trying to help
Be prepared for the mediator to sometimes tell you things you do not want to hear. Part of a mediator’s job is to give you a realistic assessment about what to expect if you go to trial.
For example, if you want to be awarded the house, but you have no income and cannot afford the mortgage payments, but your spouse can, a mediator could tell you that you are not getting the house. Although something like this is hard to hear, the mediator is likely giving your spouse realistic feedback on other issues, as well.
When you come to an agreement in mediation, the terms of the agreement get put into writing and signed by you and your spouse. The agreement is submitted to a judge, who signs it and it becomes legally binding.
Do we have to agree on everything?
You do not need to resolve every divorce issue at mediation, although sometimes that happens. Other times, only some issues are resolved and you leave mediation with a partial agreement. A trial is then set to argue the unresolved issues.
Whenever you go to trial, you risk the judge doing something that neither you nor your spouse are happy with. Divorce often involves many complicated issues, but you usually end up with a better outcome resolving them yourselves.