Although a divorce is commonly thought of as an oppositional experience, the reality is that only a small percentage of divorce cases ultimately go to trial before a judge. The majority of cases are instead resolved by the parties through mediation. Mediation is a healthier and less contentious means by which parties are able to negotiate the terms of their divorce, including property division, parenting time, and support. Advantages to mediation are numerous, but perhaps the most notable is that mediation enables the parties to ultimately retain final approval over the terms of the agreement – whereas if they were to go to court, the parties would be bound to whatever the judge ordered.

Settling a divorce through mediation can not only be a less stressful approach, it is usually faster and less costly.

Mediation for Divorce in Arizona

Parties are able to take part in mediation at any point in the case. What happens in mediation is confidential. The mediation process is led by an independent and neutral mediator whose goal is to facilitate understanding and agreement between the parties, and to keep them in control of their own divorce terms. A mediator does not serve as an advocate for either party, but rather, is an unbiased party who has a strong knowledge and understanding of the law so he or she is able to provide the parties with objective information as to their legal rights and how a court might potentially rule on an issue. A strong mediator will use their expansive understanding of the law to craft creative agreements and settlements that ultimately satisfy both parties, and will have the negotiation skills necessary to reach agreements on issues that might have previously seemed unresolvable.

Due to the emotional nature of divorce, mediation in a divorce typically is performed by splitting the parties and their respective counsel into separate rooms. The mediator then acts as an intermediary between them, traveling back and forth between the respective rooms exchanging settlement proposals. This way, the parties are often able to get through and complete the divorce and negotiations without having to be in the same room.

Is Mediation Available to Help Us Resolve Issues in Our Divorce?

Yes. You may be familiar with mediation as a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) — a forum for settling disputed issues in the family law case before a trial. In Arizona, couples with children often participate in the Conciliation Services’ court mediation program. Private mediation is also available for all couples and for any disputed issue.

Are We Required to go to Court?

Not always. If parties agree on everything, a “Consent Decree” signed by both parties and their attorneys (if applicable) is sent to the assigned Judge. The Judge will review the Consent Decree and any other documents submitted, and, if everything is in order, the Judge will sign and enter the Decree to finalize your case. If parties do not agree on all issues, a Trial will be held so that the Judge can decide the unresolved issues. Generally, the Judge must issue his/her decision within 60 days after the trial. The Judge’s decision is usually the final Decree, although sometimes the Judge will instruct one of the lawyers to prepare a final Decree to include the Judge’s decision. If no answer has been filed, the filing party may have to go to Court for a brief hearing, so the Judge can enter the Decree by default.

What are Some of the Benefits of Mediation?

There is no shortage of benefits to spouses willingly attending mediation to resolve issues, rather than litigating everything in court. About 90% of divorces are resolved through mediation without ever having to go to trial. Mediation enables spouses to ultimately retain final approval over the terms of their divorce, including parenting plans, property division, and awards of support. However, if they decide to instead attend court, that control is removed from the parties and instead placed in the hands of the Judge, who then has sole and final discretion as to how the divorce is resolved. Mediation is a private, less costly, and oftentimes less contentious way by which a divorce can be resolved by the spouses coming and working together, rather than battling it out in the courtroom. There are varying structures of how a mediation is conducted, depending on the wishes of the parties. For example, a common mediation technique involves a neutral, third party mediator splitting up the parties and their attorneys into separate rooms, acting as an intermediary between them and traveling back and forth. This way, spouses can complete settlement negotiations without even having to be in the same room as the other.