The traditional model of a litigated divorce where two sides air their acrimonious differences in the public setting of a courtroom is no longer the norm, especially in New Hampshire. Divorce mediation has gained popularity for several reasons:
- It is less expensive than litigation
- It takes less time
- It is private
Although mediation services can involve only the fees of the mediator, even where attorneys are also involved, the mediation process will still eliminate expensive court fees. And because there are no court appearances, most mediations can be completed within one to two sessions. Finally, many people do not realize that a divorce that is settled before a judge becomes part of the public record.
Stages of divorce mediation
There are usually five stages to divorce mediation. In the introduction, the mediator will work with each side, often meeting with each spouse to establish the basic structure of the process as well as their unique perspectives going into the mediation. During this stage the mediator will be able to determine both points of conflict as well as areas of agreement.
In the next stage, both sides gather inventory and information for the mediator to determine the assets and liabilities of the estate as part of property division. The mediator will explain New Hampshire law concerning the division of marital property, child custody and support.
The next step in the mediation is the framing stage in which both sides will clarify their “needs and interests”, which are a combination of their priorities and values. As the goal of the mediation is to help the two parties to be able to come out of the process having met many, if not all, of their goals, establishing what each party wishes to get out of the process will help them to be willing to compromise down the line.
During negotiations, the mediator’s task is to help each side to see more than one outcome, rather than a winner-take-all approach. This collaborative approach gives flexibility to the process and helps each side to explore a number of options.
In the final stage, a tentative agreement is drawn up. Once both spouses have agreed to the draft or reviewed it with their attorneys, the formal settlement agreement is signed and filed with the court.
Mediation is not always possible, especially where there is a history of domestic violence or abuse. But for couples who wish to explore an amicable closure to this chapter in their lives, it can be an attractive option. For more information on mediation services in the Manchester are, it is best to consult with experienced legal counsel.