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Mediation: An alternative to a contentious Arizona divorce

Coming to the final decision to divorce can be one of the most difficult that an individual ever has to make. Many questions will come up after separating. A few common ones include where to start and whether litigation or mediation might work best in your situation.

Mediation is a non-adversarial process that provides the opportunity to design an agreement that best meets the unique needs of the family involved. With the help of a mediator, the spouses make decisions for themselves. The process usually takes less time than going the litigation route and often results in a better outcome.

Some may have misunderstandings about the mediation process. This article will discuss several misconceptions about the process.

Experts and attorneys play a role

In Arizona, each spouse signs a document laying out the guidelines of the process. A common myth is that attorneys and experts are not a part of the mediation process. An individual can hire an attorney to provide legal advice during the mediation. Mediators are neutral parties and cannot provide legal advice to either spouse even though they may discuss common legal information.

When questions of valuation of assets, such as a home or a business are sticking points, an expert may assist. A realtor might provide a market report as a basis for the valuation on the parties’ home. In the case of a family business, a certified public accountant may help in offering cash flow and valuation information. Having more information from neutral experts can assist the mediator help the parties reach agreement.

After a successful mediation, a draft of a Settlement Agreement or Memorandum of Understanding will put in writing all the settled issues. Each spouse can then have his or her attorney or expert(s) review the agreement before it is finalized.

Not all issues can be resolved in mediation, which is okay

Mediation may resolve all the issues related to property division, but then the sensitive issues of child custody and support become too contentious and the parties cannot reach agreement on these issues. The parties can proceed to litigate the divorce. The court will then resolve the issue of child custody, parenting time and child support.

Is not necessary to be in the same room

Each mediator in Arizona has his or her own style, and may start the session with both spouses in the same room. Then the mediator may use a “caucus” format, which involves speaking with each spouse separately in different rooms. There may also be the option to mediate via conference calls.

The end of a marriage is an emotional and stressful time. Each spouse will likely suffer hurt feelings and anger during the divorce process. Seeking the counsel of an experienced Arizona family law attorney is one way to proceed toward resolution and ensure you receive a fair settlement.