Alternatives to Divorce: Mediation as a Solution to COVID

Divorce, Mediation

Divorce can be a difficult process. It presents its own set of challenges: making the decision to file, deciding who stays in the family home, sharing the children, and sparing them the angst and anxiety you may experience. Add the COVID pandemic and all of a sudden, your divorce process becomes more complicated. Your frustration level is now ten times higher than it was when you initially filed because you do not see an end in sight. You do not have control over COVID, but do you still have control over your divorce process?

Alternate Routes to Resolution:

If you filed for divorce or legal separation and want to avoid prolonged delays and additional stress and anxiety, alternate dispute resolution is a viable option that may help you settle the issues in your case.

Mediation or Arbitration: Is There a Difference?

Both mediation and arbitration are voluntary informal proceedings, i.e. there is no courtroom, or judge. Mediation is presided over by a neutral mediator, chosen by both parties. The mediator’s job is to listen to both sides and assist them in reaching an agreement. The mediator makes recommendations only to help resolve issues. If both parties agree to the recommendations, the mediator can prepare a written agreement which both parties sign. This agreement can be merged into a judgment of divorce and filed with the Court. This agreement then becomes an order of the Court.

Mediation being voluntary, neither party has to agree with the mediator’s recommendations. If no agreement is reached or if you do not agree with a mediator’s recommendations, the mediation is over, and your case will eventually be heard by the Court.

Arbitration is similar to mediation in that it is an informal proceeding. However, arbitration is conducted as if the proceeding were being held in Court. Rules of evidence and procedure apply. Arbitration allows the parties to present their respective positions on all issues. The arbitrator will then make findings, and, more importantly, binding orders. 

Given the current public health constraints, mediations/arbitrations will most likely be conducted through video conferencing.

If both parties are represented by counsel, they will advise you if your case is ready for mediation or arbitration. It may be that only some issues are ready for settlement. Your counsel will advise you how best to proceed.

No Attorney? 

If you do not have an attorney, alternate dispute resolution options still offer you an opportunity to resolve the issues in your case. Can you reach an agreement with the other side on your own? If you do reach an agreement, can it become a Court order?

Yes to both questions. However, before you agree to issues such as: no spousal support, or fifty/fifty custody, or keeping the house, it is imperative you know what you are entitled to receive before you decide what to give up for the purpose of reaching an agreement. Only when you know what you are entitled to can you decide what is worth fighting for and what is worth settling.

Before a meaningful settlement can begin or be reached, each party is required to provide the other with full disclosures regarding income, property, other assets, debts, etc, before you play your hand, all cards need to be on the table.

Mediation at JWB Family Law

JWB Family Law brings over 80 years of combined legal experience and expertise to the table. We understand the substance of family law, its intricacies, and nuances. We also understand the need to provide you with alternate avenues to resolve your family law matter.

Whether it is a divorce, legal separation, annulment, or a post-judgment issue, JWB Family Law can provide the knowledge and neutrality necessary for a meaningful mediation. We understand the need for each party to feel they have been heard and understood. 

We also provide the information you need to know if you are considering mediation with a mutually agreed-upon mediator. So often we hear people say, “If I had only known, I wouldn’t have agreed.” 

We are available for you as mediators, counselors, and zealous advocates. Major life changes are challenging, especially when you are making them during a pandemic.  

JWB Family Law remains open and available to answer your questions and concerns. We are accessible through telephone and remote access. Our attorneys and staff are here to help you through this uncertain time.

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