If you are beginning a contested divorce in Tennessee, you will likely end up having to try resolving disputed issues through mediation. Tennesee law requires court-ordered mediation for most contested divorces.
For many divorcing couples, mediation can offer several advantages over a full-scale court battle. Everyone is different, and contested divorces tend to present a variety of issues, so be sure to discuss your concerns and goals with your attorney.
The role of the mediator
The mediator acts as a neutral third party who facilitates negotiations between the divorcing spouses. Generally, spouses sit in separate rooms while the mediator goes back and forth. If the parties come to an agreement during this process, their attorneys draw up and fine-tune a written agreement for submission to the court.
Benefits of mediation
In many divorces, the parties are not able to agree and, therefore, initiate a contested divorce because negative emotions on both sides can run high. Most people find it hard to have a productive, issue-focused discussion under these circumstances. Mediation can provide a way to de-escalate tensions and find common ground.
Mediation proceedings stay confidential. This generally means nothing said in the course of mediation can be brought up later in court. These proceedings, unlike most of what happens in court, are also closed to the public.
Limits of mediation
Mediators cannot offer legal advice or help to either party. As they are not judges, they also cannot issue orders.
Bring your lawyer
You can and should have your attorney with you during mediation. Your lawyer can explain legal concepts and advise you as to the potential consequences of various decisions.
Grounds for waiver
You will not need to attend mediation if you file a divorce agreement that covers all issues, or if you had a settlement conference in court. A judge may also waive the mediation requirement if you cannot afford it; however, you will still have to go if the mediator waives the fee or if there is a subsidy available.
You can also ask the court to waive mediation if you have evidence that it will not yield any results. In particular, mediation can harm you if your ex is lying or hiding assets. If allegations of domestic violence exist, mediation needs to be conducted carefully by a mediator with specific training in this area.