Divorce Mediation Attorneys in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Divorce mediation is available and should be considered in many instances if you and your spouse are looking for a way to settle your divorce without court litigation. Yet, even though mediation can be a very effective tool for lowering the conflict and cost of divorce, it might not work for all couples. For example, there are other scenarios where traditional mediation isn't likely to work well, including when:
there's a history of abuse, whether physical or otherwise
communication and cooperation seems impossible because of excessive emotional conflict in your relationship
your spouse could be hiding money or other assets (or wasting assets)
your spouse has a substance abuse disorder and isn't receiving treatment, or
a spouse filed for a divorce claiming that the other spouse's misconduct was the reason the marriage failed).
Initiating the Divorce Mediation Process
The first stage of a mediation session that the mediator will need to perform is an intake of the participants and explain what they should expect from the mediation process. Of course, there is also a need to arrange payment for the mediation services. The mediator will require background information such as your contact information, the length of marriage, and whether you have children which add special considerations. If you're attending court-ordered mediation, then certain administrative details will need to be addressed before the mediation proceeds. The mediator will also present an agenda, and address any preliminary questions that each spouse may have.
Major Issues and The Gathering Information
In order for the mediation to be successful, you, your spouse, and the mediator all need to have a clear picture of all the facts that will help you negotiate the issues in your divorce. At the beginning of this stage (or perhaps during Stage 1), the mediator will inquire about what you and your spouse agree on, and what you still need to work out. Most divorcing spouses will need to address the following in mediation:
the division of marital property, including assets and debts,
spousal support (alimony)
child support, child custody and visitation.
Your mediator might have requested that you gather information relating to these topics. If not, your mediator may help you determine what information you need to bring in. If you agree that additional research is needed or a neutral expert is to be consulted, that will go on a "to do" list.
Finally, the mediator might discuss the general legal rules that apply to the issues in your divorce. For example, the mediator might explain marital property division laws, introduce you to child support guidelines, or give insight to judicial attitudes regarding...
Outline Divorce Issues
Identifying needs and interests helps to frame the core goal of the mediation: a settlement of some or all issues. When an overlap between spousal issues, settlement is more likely. When a mediator can fully identify and work through each spouse's most important needs and interests, the probability increases that the resulting compromises will be acceptable.
Negotiating Your Divorce
Most mediators will emphasize the problem-solving aspect of negotiation at this stage. Once the mediator has helped the spouses frame the issues and interests clearly, it's time to negotiate. Negotiations usually begin with an exploration of possible ways to settle each issue in the divorce. With the mediator's help, the spouses brainstorm and evaluate their options, until they eventually have a list of solutions that might work for both. Arriving at a "short list" of options almost always involves compromises and concessions on both sides.
Drafting a Settlement Agreement
When the spouses have reached agreement about one or more of the issues in their divorce, many mediators will work with the spouses or with their attorneys to draft a marital settlement agreement. Both spouses and their attorneys, if they have any, have the chance to thoroughly review the agreement before signing. The parties still need to file the settlement agreement with the court and ask that the judge incorporate it into the Final Order and allow for the receipt of a divorce decree.