What are the Advantages of Divorce Mediation?
In most South Carolina counties, mediation is a requirement for divorcing couples. There are some exceptions to this, such as cases in which there is already an agreement, but most of the time, the spouses will have to go to a mediator first before the case goes to court. The hope is that the outstanding issues can be resolved, and a settlement can be reached without the need for costly and protracted litigation.
Mediation is a process by which the spouses and their attorneys (if they have legal counsel) meet with a neutral, third-party mediator to try to work out a divorce settlement. The mediator guides the discussion with the goal of helping the spouses reach a fair and amicable resolution.
Although the mediator facilitates the process, their role is not the same as a family court judge. Mediators do not have the authority to decide one way or the other on an issue; instead, they help participants reach these decisions on their own. Ultimately, both spouses must agree on a final settlement, otherwise it will not be legally binding.
What are Some of the Advantages of Mediation?
There are a number of ways in which divorcing couples can benefit from mediation, these include:
- Save Time and Money: Divorce litigation can take up to a year or longer, and if either party appeals a court’s decision, it can drag on for years after that. Divorce mediation can be completed in just a handful of sessions over the course of a few months, saving spouses untold amounts of time, money, and energy.
- Focus Placed on Couple’s Specific Needs and Concerns: During divorce mediation sessions, the spouses can focus on the areas that are most important to them, rather than whatever issues the court brings up.
- More Creative Resolutions: Because the parties can spend an appropriate amount of time on the issues that matter most, they are able to get more creative and come up with “win-win” resolutions that would be more difficult to develop within a court setting.
- Privacy and Confidentiality: All divorce mediation sessions are kept private and confidential, and the details of the sessions will never become part of the public court record. This allows spouses to speak more freely knowing that what they say during mediation will not be used against them later on.
- Cooperative and Amicable Process: Divorce mediation takes place in a cooperative setting that is more conducive to peaceable and amicable resolutions. This helps ensure that couples dissolve their marriage civilly and maintain a decent relationship, which is especially important when there are children involved.
- Agreements More Likely to be Honored: Because the participants are the ones that ultimately must agree on a final settlement, they are more likely to “take ownership” of the agreement they have reached and honor its terms and conditions.
Does Divorce Mediation Really Work?
The benefits listed above come with one major caveat – they assume that the mediation process will result in a settlement. And because the process is voluntary and both spouses must agree on any proposed resolution, there is no guarantee that mediation will be successful in your case.
The good news is that the majority of mediations do result in a settlement. And in fact, according to Forbes, 95% of divorces are settled out of court. The reason for this is simple; it is in everyone’s best interests to reach an agreement without going to litigation, so all parties have a strong incentive to do so whether through mediation, negotiation, or combination of the two.
While the success rate for mediation is high, it is not appropriate for all cases. For example, if there is domestic abuse in the relationship, then the court might make an exception and allow the couple to forgo mediation.
The same might be true if you have a very combative and uncooperative spouse who is not likely to work with you during the mediation process. An unscrupulous spouse could even agree to mediation as a delay tactic knowing full well that they have no intention of resolving anything. A spouse might do this if they want to hold onto their property longer or avoid paying alimony or child support.
Issues like these underscore the need to have an experienced attorney by your side to advise you on whether it makes sense to go to mediation and guide you through the process. Your attorney will help prepare you for the sessions, so you know what to expect. And if you believe there is an imbalance of power or you are otherwise uncomfortable meeting with just you, your spouse, and a mediator, your attorney can sit in on the sessions with you. Finally, they can review any final settlement that is negotiated to ensure that it is fair and enforceable, and that you are making a well-informed decision.
Contact the Cate Law Firm for Assistance with South Carolina Divorces
If you are facing a divorce in South Carolina, the Cate Law Firm is here to help. Our firm is focused exclusively on family law, and we have several decades of experience helping clients with mediation and all other aspects of the divorce process. To schedule a consultation with a member of our legal team, message us online or call our office today at (864) 585-4226. We look forward to serving you!