Mediation: The Alternative to Contested Divorce


Marriages do not end because spouses are getting along too well. And, a marriage that ends in dispute many times leads to a legal battle that only increases the amount of conflict and stress felt by all parties. Unfortunately, Arizona divorce law is designed to be adversarial in nature. When one spouse is pitted against the other in an adversarial proceeding, the parties many times overlook the possibility of reaching common ground and mutually acceptable positions.

A contentious divorce is not only emotionally difficult, but it can also put a financial strain on the parties. Attorney fees are not inexpensive, and history shows us that divorces can become costly when the parties are unwilling to work with one another. For instance, according to Forbes Magazine, Michael Jordan’s divorce was estimated to cost more than $150 million, which is believed to be the most expensive celebrity divorce in history. It seems that this type of divorce causes everybody to lose.

An alternative to litigating a divorce lies in the mediation process. A mediator is a neutral third-party who facilitates a negotiation between the spouses. Couples can use the mediation process to resolve any issue traditionally resolved in a contested divorce proceeding, such as child custody, visitation, child support, alimony, and division of assets. The difference is that mediation affords the parties an opportunity to reach mutually acceptable agreements without undertaking a potentially expensive court battle.

During mediation, couples meet together with a mediator to discuss the pending dissolution. A good mediator remains impartial throughout the proceeding and provides each party with the information they need to reach their goals and objectives. An experienced family law mediator will help the parties keep realistic and reasonable expectations. He or she will also advise the parties as to the strengths and weaknesses of their respective positions. A successful mediation typically requires both parties to make concessions, but importantly, it allows the parties to be masters of their own destinies. Parties to mediation are free to retain their own attorney to represent them throughout the mediation, but they are not required to do so.

Ultimately, the mediation process allows couples to retain a greater degree of control over the outcome of their dissolution. Rather than battle the issues out in court, all the while paying attorney fees, parties to mediation are encouraged to work with one another towards common ground.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Timothy Durkin, JacksonWhite, P.C. | Attorney Advertising

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