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Are my Spouse and I a Good Choice for the Mediation Process?

Are my Spouse and I a Good Choice for the Mediation Process?

When you know you and your spouse are headed for divorce, you may think you will be facing unpleasant court hearings and a lengthy trial. The truth is that most divorces are settled outside of the courtroom. One of the ways that parties can reach a workable agreement is through mediation. If you are getting divorced in Wisconsin, you may want to know: Are my spouse and I a good choice for the mediation process?

Wisconsin Divorce

In Wisconsin, like most other states, divorce will typically involve dividing assets and debts and, if applicable, deciding issues related to custody and child placement. When parents disagree about child custody and placement, the law requires that they attend mediation. However, it’s generally a good idea to attend mediation before scheduling a divorce hearing even when you do not have children.

Understanding Mediation

Mediation is a non-binding process that involves meeting with a neutral third-party who is trained in dispute resolution to assist you and your partner in working out the terms of your divorce. The mediator is usually an attorney or former judge with family law experience who understands the issues involved in these types of cases. Both sides are expected to mediate in good faith in an attempt to reach agreements.

The mediator will meet with each side to discuss ways to resolve issues such as spousal maintenance, property division, placement schedules, child support, and even issues like inheritance and why the law may not seem “fair” in your unique set of circumstances. The mediator is not on anyone’s side and is not there to pressure the parties to resolve their disputes. It is possible to use mediation to agree on some issues rather than everything in the case. You can also walk away without reaching any agreements.

Determining if Mediation is Right for You

Under the right circumstances, mediation can be an effective way to resolve issues in a divorce, and is generally less expensive than litigation. However, this process is not right for everyone, and its usefulness depends on the basic trust level between the parties, and how willing the parties are to reach a solution. Those who are motivated to resolve their issues and end their case will likely find success with mediation. Even if you are in a contentious posture, mediation can be a good way to diffuse the situation. On the other hand, if there is too much hostility between you and your ex, it may not be possible to mediate effectively. Mediation is generally not appropriate when one spouse has been abusive. Abuse within a relationship may create a dynamic in which the abuser can subtly intimidate and control the other person. The abuser could use the process to try and force their ex into submitting to agreements he or she does not want to make. Additionally, if a party has a mental health condition or another issue that impairs his or her ability to negotiate, mediation may not be appropriate for the situation.

Advantages to Mediation

There are significant advantages to using mediation, such as avoiding the time and expense of a trial. Additionally, it allows both sides to develop creative solutions that fit their circumstances rather than leaving choices up to a court. For instance, you and your ex may want to share placement time in a flexible manner that works for you but may not be something a court would decide outside of an agreement. Further, in mediation the difficult emotions which tend to drive conflict can actually be expressed, and often resolved to the satisfaction of both parties. Whereas in “no-fault” litigation the family judge will never hear about how “unfair” it is that one spouse is feeling jilted, or cheated on, after having provided for the family for so many years. In litigation the emotions aren’t calculated into the outcome at all, but in mediation they can be, and they often lead to better more balanced results.

Mediation can be a productive process and an excellent way to resolve your issues. However, for the process to be effective, it's essential to come prepared and with the right counsel at your side. Attorney and mediator Karyn Youso has extensive experience both in assisting clients during mediation and as mediator, and can help you determine if the process is right for your circumstances.