Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution that is gaining popularity as a way to facilitate the resolution of many types of court cases, including divorce. Like any other method, mediation has its pros and cons that can vary depending on the parties involved.
How it works
During the mediation process, the couple meets with a mediator to discuss and resolve their points of contention. Mediators receive special training to act as neutral third parties who are there to facilitate the discussion. They may not provide legal advice to either party. Mediators also cannot issue orders or enforce anything, and may not testify as a witness in the event that the couple does go on to litigate in court, so all settlement discussions remain confidential.
Required by law
Most couples involved in a contested divorce in Tennessee must attempt mediation before proceeding to litigate any remaining issues. Settling at least some of the disagreements before coming to court saves time for busy judges.
Tennessee law does provide several exceptions to the mediation rule. Some of these include couples who have already resolved or attempted to resolve their disagreements, such as those who file an agreement that addresses all points. If you are unable to pay for a mediator, you may also be exempt from this requirement, unless the mediator waives the fee or you receive a subsidy for it.
Parties typically arrive for mediation with their attorneys. The mediator may place the parties in separate rooms and go back and forth in order to avoid emotional confrontations and keep everyone’s mind on working out the issues. Upon achieving an agreement, the attorneys draft the documents reflecting it, with input from the parties and the mediator. Sometimes the mediator may draw up documents and have the attorneys edit them.
Pros and cons
Mediation tends to work best for divorcing couples who disagree about some points but are able and willing to work on a compromise. Because the mediator has no power to make a party disclose something or produce documents, mediation is ineffective if one of the parties is hiding assets or lying. Tennessee law also recognizes that mediation may not be the best option in cases involving domestic violence. In such cases, attorneys can ask the judge to waive the mediation requirement.
For couples beginning divorce proceedings, many aspects can seem difficult and confusing. It is important for you to have your own attorney throughout this journey to defend your interests and give you the information you need to understand the process and make optimal choices.