Is Mediation the Same as Divorce?
Divorce is rarely an easy choice to make. Deciding to end your marriage can have inevitable and lasting impacts on your life and future. While summoning the courage to ask for a divorce can be emotionally draining, there are many other decisions that soon-to-be divorcees must make after the paperwork has been filed.
Like other areas of our legal system, family law is never black and white. There are many variances in divorce proceedings, as the legal process is influenced by state laws and the unique circumstances of a couple’s marriage. While some spouses are capable of parting ways amicably, others can face a long time-consuming battle in court.
Fortunately, there are various ways that couples can obtain a divorce. Regardless of where you live, the primary hurdle that spouses must overcome is reaching a settlement. This is the foundational purpose of the divorce process, whether this is achieved inside or outside of the courtroom.
Types of Divorces in California
If you’re considering or preparing for a divorce in California, it may be beneficial to understand the various routes that couples can take to end their marriage. Generally, a divorce can be obtained in one of three ways:
Also referred to as a traditional divorce, a contested divorce is probably the divorce type that most people imagine when the topic arises. It requires a couple to go to court to reach a divorce agreement because they cannot reach a settlement on their own.
In these cases, the intervention of the court and judge is necessary to help facilitate divorce terms and achieve a resolution.
Also known as a DIY divorce, an uncontested divorce is sought by couples who are capable of reaching an agreement outside of court without a judge’s intervention. It’s worth noting that this is easier said than done for many divorcees, as it requires both spouses to agree on every single divorce-related aspect of the marriage dissolution.
If spouses disagree on any detail, regardless of how small it seems, they are no longer eligible for an uncontested divorce. Many couples will opt for an uncontested divorce if possible due to perceived advantages, such as:
- Less costly
- Less time-consuming
- More privacy
- Easier on kids
- Greater potential for lasting amicable relations
Keep in mind that while an uncontested divorce can be achieved outside of the courtroom, this doesn’t necessarily mean that spouses will not require legal representation to achieve a resolution. It’s always best to consult with a qualified divorce lawyer who can recommend which route is best for you based on your unique situation.
Mediation is best defined as the process of achieving a non-adversarial dispute resolution. Similarly to an uncontested divorce, mediation is facilitated outside of the courtroom. Mediation requires the participation of both spouses, their attorneys, and an impartial mediator who will guide the discussion as the involved parties negotiate the terms of the divorce.
How Divorce Mediation Works
Similarly to an uncontested divorce, divorce mediation allows a couple to privately negotiate the aspects of their divorce outside of court. This is accomplished with supervision from a neutral third party (mediator) who can guide the discussion and keep a couple on track to reach a settlement as quickly and civilly as possible.
Is Mediation a Substitute for Divorce?
No, mediation is not an alternative to divorce. Think of it this way: regardless of whether a couple chooses to participate in mediation, the end result is the same: the dissolution of marriage.
While some might assume that mediation is a form of couples counseling or court-facilitated procedure, divorce mediation is a means of negotiation to reach a divorce settlement. It isn’t intended as a substitute for divorce or to dissuade a couple from dissolving a marriage.
Divorce is the ultimate outcome of uncontested divorces, contested divorces, and divorce mediation. While mediation isn’t a substitute for divorce, it can be considered a substitute for divorce litigation, as it can provide an alternative route for couples to take in lieu of lengthy court proceedings.
What is the Mediator’s Role in Divorce?
Mediators are best defined as trained family law specialists who function as neutral third parties during divorce negotiations. While a mediator doesn’t provide legal advice, part of their role in a divorce is to provide couples with general legal information (such as clarifying legal processes and statutes) that can empower spouses to make informed decisions and ultimately reach a divorce settlement outside of the courtroom.
Ideally, your mediator will be equipped with the knowledge and training required to facilitate a constructive negotiation between you and your spouse while keeping conflicts to a minimum. This can enable couples to stay on track and focus on the core issues required to achieve a resolution.
It’s worth noting that while mediators work to facilitate a constructive environment for couples to find a solution, they will not impose a solution upon the couple. Terms of the divorce settlement must be reached by disputing parties on their own without the mediator’s input.
Benefits of Divorce Mediation
In the event that a couple isn’t eligible for an uncontested divorce, a mediated divorce might be an excellent alternative, as it can offer many of the same advantages as an uncontested or DIY divorce.
Every couple is different. What works well for some spouses may not work well for others. While no path to divorce is the wrong one, some couples perceive mediation as more advantageous and preferable to traditional divorce litigation. Common benefits of a mediated divorce include:
- More privacy. Reaching a divorce settlement outside of court can be exceedingly helpful for couples to maintain a sense of privacy and dignity. Mediated divorces can permit families to resolve disputes away from the scrutiny of a judge and other strangers in the courtroom.
- Less expensive. Mediated divorces are often less expensive than contested divorces because they are settled outside of court. Some legal expenses (such as filing fees) are unavoidable no matter which type of divorce a couple pursues; however, because mediated divorces are designed to achieve a swift and civil solution, they can be a more cost-effective path for many couples.
- More efficient. If a couple goes to court for a divorce, they likely disagree on various divorce issues. Given the complexities of divorce proceedings and the gravity of decisions to be made (such as child custody or who keeps the family home), it’s not surprising that traditional divorces can take a long time to play out in court. Divorce litigation entails a lengthier process that can cost couples significant time and money. On the contrary, a mediated divorce can be a more efficient route to achieve resolution.
- More control. Both divorce litigation and mediation require a resolution to be reached. A major difference between these two approaches is who gets to make the final call. In a traditional divorce, the judge has the final say in all divorce-related terms. Contrarily, a mediated divorce allows the couple to take the wheel and retain autonomy over their situation. While this doesn't mean that both spouses will be entirely content with the end result, it does allow them to reach an agreement on their own terms that both parties can live with.
Which Divorce Matters Can Be Mediated?
Mediation is intended to produce the same outcome as divorce litigation; it simply takes a different approach to get there. In the same manner that 1) all divorce terms must be agreed upon in an uncontested divorce or 2) decided by a judge during a contested divorce, a mediated divorce also requires a couple to reach a comprehensive agreement on all divorce issues.
These mandatory divorce-related decisions include (but aren’t limited to):
Helping Families Resolve Disputes with Dignity
At Alternative Divorce Solutions, we’re sympathetic to the emotional toll that divorce can take on our clients. The last thing you need during this difficult time is added stress. That’s why our skilled divorce mediators are committed to providing a better solution to divorce that minimizes conflict and promotes civil relations from start to finish.
Your family shouldn't have to suffer for months on end while a battle is waged in the courtroom. Our firm is dedicated to providing Californians with a more dignified alternative to a typical high-conflict divorce. You can count on our experienced divorce attorneys to keep your best interests at heart while reducing the stress on your family during this challenging season.
If you’re preparing to end a marriage, choose the sensible and affordable solution by partnering with our compassionate team of divorce mediators. We have a proven track record of delivering non-intrusive legal solutions for our clients in Orange County and will work tirelessly to obtain a peaceful and efficient resolution in court.
Filing for divorce in Orange County? Don’t risk losing what matters most. Call our firm at (949) 558-2624 or contact us online today to request a free consultation.