Divorce Mediator Kimberley Keyes reviews the range of issues that can be addressed through mediation.
Mediation can handle any of the issues that might come up in your divorce. The only difference between addressing these issues through mediation or through another technique, like litigation, is how they become resolved. Divorce mediation is a process in which divorcing spouses agree to try to settle their conflicts themselves with the help of a neutral third party. Therefore, if you and your spouse know that you want to separate but are having trouble resolving a particular matter, no matter what the sticking point is, mediation can probably help. Some of the most difficult issues that mediation can help resolve are child custody and parenting, child support, asset division, and alimony.
Table of Contents for this Blog
Mediating Child Custody and Parenting Time
Of all the issues that frequently arise during a divorce, child custody and parenting time are often among the most difficult to resolve. Parents love their children, but during a divorce it can be easy to convince yourself that the other spouse is using the kids as leverage, or will not be a good parent for them as they grow up. When these emotions take hold, it can be difficult to see past them.
Divorce mediation helps quell those emotions with a holistic approach that emphasizes cooperation and mutual respect, rather than inflaming antagonism with the combative tactics often used in litigation. Guiding parents toward making decisions that are truly in the best interest of the children involved is one reason why divorce mediation is often preferable to litigation.
Mediating the Division of Marital Assets
If you and your spouse have been professionally successful during your time together, you will likely have amassed significant assets between the two of you. Who gets what is one of the most challenging parts of a high net-worth divorce, especially when you or your spouse has a strong emotional connection to some of your belongings. Even if the main assets consist of nothing more than a house and a few bank and retirement accounts, however, deciding how to divide them can be tricky if the tension between the spouses is high.
Because divorce mediation focuses on compromise and discussion, rather than a scorched-earth policy of domination, dividing your assets fairly becomes far easier and less stressful. It also leaves you in greater control of the results, letting you keep the things that are the most important to you.
Mediating Child Support and Alimony
Another contentious issue in any divorce is alimony, otherwise known as spousal support. Similarly, child support can spark disagreement and frustration among divorcing spouses. By keeping the focus on the overall fairness of the separation, divorce mediation can handle alimony issues far better than a more combative dispute resolution process. This involves keeping in mind the long-term effect that the marriage had on those involved, and treating alimony according to its intended purpose of providing economic support to a spouse in need. By helping the parties to recognize and remain aware of these concepts, divorce mediation gives spouses a more thorough understanding of the process and lets them use that understanding to come to a collaborative decision that works for both.
With respect to child support, mediation works best by refocusing spouses on the needs of the children, rather than any interpersonal dispute between parents. De-escalating negative emotions and concentrating on the challenging economic needs of children can help unify parents on the shared goal of providing support for the family, even after the spouses are no longer together. The emotions involved in divorce – including each spouse’s anxiety about their individual economic needs after a separation – can draw the focus away from the financial needs of children. At the same time, mediation can assist spouses in understanding that maintaining two households after a divorce may require significant changes to lifestyle and spending habits, as each parent must learn how to get by with less than they may have grown accustomed to during the marriage.
Kim is a divorce mediator for South Shore Divorce Mediation, located in Hingham, Massachusetts. She is also a Senior Associate Attorney for Lynch & Owens, P.C., where she specializes in divorce and family law issues. Kim is a statutory mediator under M.G.L. Ch. 233, s. 23C and a proud member of the Massachusetts Council on Family Mediation.
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