Anyone in Northern Virginia who is contemplating a divorce may be concerned about the emotional and financial stress of the process. Mediation could be a means of expediting the divorce process and alleviating the inevitable emotional turmoil. An understanding of the basics of mediation can be the path to a relatively smooth divorce process and an outcome that is acceptable to both parties.
Mediation is a series of conferences between the divorcing spouses, their attorneys and a neutral third-party – the mediator – who is trained to conduct the mediation. Mediation is voluntary in Virginia courts, although many judges will order the parties to engage in mediation at the beginning of the proceeding. The mediator is trained to listen to both sides, to comprehend all arguments and explain one party’s position to the other side. The mediator cannot make any binding decisions. All agreements must be acceptable to both sides, and the mediator cannot force one party to accept the claims or arguments of the other.
Very often, the process of explaining a concern to the mediator will help that party discharge a significant amount of anger or frustration. Mediators use several tools to help the parties reach agreements. A mediator may suggest several solutions to an issue and let the parties choose one alternative. A mediator may also tell a party that a particular demand is unreasonable and should not be pursued. In providing a sympathetic ear, the mediator may help one or both parties feel that their concerns have been heard.
Mediation often results in agreements on several, but not all, of the issues that are in dispute. If the parties are able to reach agreements on one or more issues, the mediator will help them draft a contract that reflects the terms that have been accepted. If the parties are unable to agree on the issues between them, the mediator will report the impasse to the court, and the divorce process will continue.