Q. What typically happens if I go to court to obtain my divorce myself?
It is not usually recommended for people to go to court themselves to obtain a divorce due to the potentially significant consequences. Divorce is a legal process and if the rules are not properly followed, you can lose your rights to make certain legal arguments on your behalf. Additionally, if you do not have a lawyer and your spouse does, there will be an inherent imbalance and you may have difficulty winning your case or getting the terms you want in your divorce decree.
Q. What are the alternatives to going to court to get a divorce?
There are a few alternatives to going to court to obtain a divorce. The most common is going through mediation during which a skilled third party neutral guides you and your spouse toward an amicable resolution of your divorce. Collaborative divorce is also another alternative in which your lawyers negotiate your settlement. If they are unable to reach an agreement, they recuse themselves and you continue toward a contested case with new lawyers.
Q. What are the benefits of divorce mediation?
Divorce mediation is often much less expensive than mediation. You do not have to pay a lawyer if you go through mediation, but you can if you so choose. In any event, the lawyer will spend less time appearing in court and arguing your case if you reach an amicable result in mediation. Mediation is also a more peaceful resolution, so you can divorce with integrity and maintain a positive co-parenting relationship with your spouse. Mediation also provides private meeting so you do not have to worry about your private business becoming public like it would in open court.
Q. What can I expect at divorce mediation?
The divorce mediator will discuss the mediation process and the ground rules. He or she will explain his or her role as a neutral facilitator who guides you toward a peaceful resolution of your case. You may be asked to give a brief opening statement and your spouse may do the same. Then, depending on the mediator and your dynamics, the mediator will meet with you either individually or in a joint session to hammer out the details of your agreement.
Q. How is divorce mediation different from going to court?
Divorce mediation is informal and often occurs in an office setting instead of in a courtroom. You keep the power involved in the case and only agree to terms that you can live with, instead of handing over power to the judge to determine important aspects of your divorce, such as how to divide your property or how child custody is treated. Mediation is also a collaborative process, so you work together with your spouse instead of being pitted against each other in litigation.
Q. Will I be left with a legally binding agreement in divorce mediation?
After successful mediation, you leave with a legally-binding agreement. However, to have the agreement reflected in a proper divorce decree, you will need to submit the agreement to the court and ask it to incorporate this agreement into your divorce decree.
Q. How long after mediation is the divorce final?
Your divorce is final after you schedule a hearing with the court where you are getting divorced and the judge signs the divorce decree. The decree is then sent via mail
Q. When is divorce mediation not appropriate?
Divorce mediation may not be appropriate in certain situations, such as when there is a history of domestic violence or an inherent imbalance of power. Divorce mediation is also not appropriate if there is a history of child abuse and restricted or prohibited visitation is in the best interest of the child.