Post-divorce mediation occurs after spouses have a signed judgment of divorce, but a disagreement arises about one of its terms. Usually, the disagreement occurs some time after the divorce judgment was entered. Mediation helps the spouses reach an agreement before submitting the new terms to the court for approval, if necessary.
Mediation Practices and Purposes
Mediation is an out-of-court meeting between disagreeing parties and a neutral, third person. The disagreeing parties agree to allow the third person know about and resolve the issue that is causing the problem. This third party is referred to as the "mediator". A mediator can be a lawyer or any person to whom the disagreeing parties allow to assist in their case.
All three meet in a neutral location, usually the mediator's office. The disagreeing parties may be separated or may even sit at the same table, depending on their level of animosity.
First, the mediator meets with each party to obtain their side of the story and identify what they want. Next, he switches back and forth between the parties, giving each a little of what they want (most of the time) in the hopes of helping them to meet in the middle.
Not reaching an agreement does not result in any legal repercussions; the parties have the option of going to court or returning to mediation to try to resolve the issue. If the parties reach an agreement, the mediator immediately types up its terms and both parties will sign it. Depending on the case, the parties may have to submit the agreement to the court for approval. The agreement is a contract, subjecting any violating party to a lawsuit for breach of contract if they violate any of its terms.
Mediation assists disputing parties reach a mutually-acceptable agreement without having to step inside a courtroom. This means that both parties can walk away happy and with heavier pockets because they did not have to pay lawyers or court costs.
Post-Divorce Mediation Practices and Purposes
The procedures for post-divorce mediation are the same as for any other type of mediation. Post-divorce mediation only occurs between ex-spouses who have a valid judgment of divorce. Usually, this judgment has existed for some time, but the circumstances behind one of the judgment's terms have changed making it no longer applicable. Of course, either ex-spouse can challenge the judgment's terms out of spite or disagreement, but most mediators will refuse to assist in these situations because there is no merit to the dispute.
Who Benefits From Post-Divorce Mediation
Although any ex-spouses can benefit from post-divorce mediation, those who are relatively amicable or even friendly benefit the most. This is because they arrive at the mediator's office without an intention to be mean, rude or fight over pointless issues. They are also more likely to give up a little of what they want to the other spouse to resolve the problem and abide by the agreement terms.
Topics Eligible to Mediate
Ex-spouses can meet to mediate any issue in their divorce decree. Child custody and support payments, alimony, property division and anything else are fair game. The catch, however, is that they may have to obtain court approval of any agreement they reach. Usually, this requires filing a motion for acceptance with the original court which decided their divorce. Many times, if fair and not contradictory to the state's divorce laws, the court will approve the agreement without holding a hearing. If, however, the agreement appears to contradict state law, they may hold a hearing to determine why. A hearing does not necessarily mean that the court will reject the agreement, but just that they want to make sure that it is fair and legal before signing it into effect.
Finding a Mediator
Most courts encourage mediation. Ex-spouses who resolve their issues out of court mean one less case on the court's schedule and are statistically less likely to appear before the court again with a dispute over the agreement. After all, they did negotiate the terms of the agreement, so it should be acceptable to them.
Most court clerks (the office which manages court case files) have lists of available mediators on file. These mediators will likely be attorneys certified by the state bar association as mediators. A simple call to your state's family law court clerk should provide you with access to this list.
Engaging in Mediation
Remember that mediation is a way to resolve a dispute without paying court costs. It is also faster than going to court. Approach the mediation table with a flexible and open mind and you won't be disappointed in the outcome.