In most contested divorce cases, Tennessee courts require couples to participate in divorce mediation. Understanding how this process works can help you reap its benefits.
While mediation involves fewer formalities than litigation, it is wise to have an attorney with you through this process. The decisions you make can have long-reaching consequences, so it is important to have someone on your side to provide legal advice and other assistance.
Who can be a mediator?
The court where you file your case will typically have a list of approved mediators from which to choose and your attorney will help you with this. Mediators are usually lawyers with additional special training. The mediator acts as a neutral to help the parties reach common ground and resolve disagreements. Mediators may suggest solutions, but cannot provide assistance or legal advice to either party; this role should be filled by your own lawyer.
Preparing for mediation
Before beginning mediation sessions, meet with your lawyer to talk about your goals, questions, and the best approach to take. Your lawyer can also tell you more about what to expect.
How mediation can help
Mediation can be effective even for spouses who disagree strongly about key issues. Mediators can help both parties communicate, and focus on solutions, without getting sidetracked by negative emotions. The process can benefit you even if some issues are not resolved and end up having to be litigated. Getting even some of the issues off the table can help you cut down on the financial and emotional costs of a court battle.
Another benefit of mediation is its confidentiality. Most things said or written during mediation session cannot be used as evidence in later proceedings. A notable exception to this confidentiality rule occurs if there are allegations of child abuse or neglect, which the mediator may be obligated by law to report to the appropriate authorities.
Why you need a lawyer during mediation
While courts usually require you to participate in the process, no one can force you to agree to something if you do not want to. Be sure to fully discuss any settlement proposals with your divorce attorney, and make sure you completely understand any proposal and feel comfortable accepting its terms.