If you're starting down the road to a mutually agreed-upon divorce, you may be wondering what options are open to you as an alternative to a litigated divorce that's fought over in court. Going to court can be an unpleasant experience, and using a divorce mediator may be able to prevent the necessity of appearing in court. But mediation isn't for everyone. Use these three factors to help you decide if it's best for your situation.
1. Assess your assets
Assets are a source of contention for many divorcing couples. If you each have your own strictly defined income and don't share ownership of any large illiquid assets (such as a house, a business, or a favorite car), it's much easier to divide belongings than it is if your possessions are intertwined and owned jointly. Another thing to keep in mind is keepsakes or heirlooms that have sentimental value and may cause contention.
2. Assess the relationship
In order to make mediation work well, you don't need to have a great relationship. You do need to be willing to work together, compromise, and come to mutual agreement, though. If there's so much contention in the relationship that neither of you feels comfortable agreeing with the other on anything, it will be hard or impossible to sort out the settlement without hard feelings. Children and pets can complicate the relationship further, because both of you may feel (correctly) that you have some right to the custody of the person or animal in question, and any arrangement is liable to infringe these perceived rights.
3. Assess your legal knowledge
A qualified mediator has a lot of experience with family law, but unfortunately for you, the mediator is not allowed to give legal advice to either side. In addition, the mediator can't take sides, so he or she can't act as your advocate. This is fair, but it may make you feel like you're at a disadvantage, especially if you don't have as much experience with the legal precedents involved. A solution to this problem is to use a mediator but also hire a personal lawyer for legal advice.
After assessing these three factors of the case at hand, you'll be able to see more clearly the pros and cons of using a mediator for your particular divorce. Choose wisely and remember that mediators and lawyers aren't mutually exclusive; you can always hire a divorce lawyer in addition to a mediator.