Mediation can be a valuable tool in divorce cases, as it introduces the presence of a neutral party to help the couple define their respective positions and attempt to come to a compromise, often avoiding the need for formal court proceedings.
While the specific structure for mediation can vary from case to case, it often follows a familiar format. Each party will be accompanied by their own attorney to advocate for their individual interests, and the mediator will guide the session by explaining the process, listening to each sideʼs concerns and goals for the outcome, and working with the parties and their counsel to reach a mutually acceptable agreement.
It can sometimes be difficult for the parties involved in a divorce to consider sitting down together and negotiating matters such as property division, child custody, etc. They may be hesitant or even averse to the idea. In Tennessee, however, it is required (with some exceptions) that all contested divorce proceedings attempt mediation before the case can go to trial. Often, once the parties sit down with the mediator and start discussing the options for compromise, collaboration isnʼt as difficult as they once imagined and a settlement agreement may be reached.
There are benefits and challenges involved in the mediation process.
Parties who successfully mediate their divorce will experience more control over the final details of the agreement, since they will be negotiating the terms themselves instead of having the courts issue the final rulings.
Mediation provides a more casual and private environment to work through conflicts organically with the help of a neutral party – when it is successful, mediation may result in a less stressful experience for the parties, and perhaps a newfound confidence in their abilities to resolve differences between themselves.
There are some situations in which the divorcing couple simply cannot come to an agreement on the matters at hand, and it can be detrimental to them to continue seeking resolution through this method. In these cases, it is the duty of the court to rule on these matters for the parties, and the duty of the couple to adhere to these rulings.
When a couple decides to divorce, mediation is likely to occur, whether, voluntarily or pursuant to Tennessee law. Itʼs important for the parties to keep an open mind and view this requirement as an opportunity for peaceful resolution and to make the most of the experience. Mediators are trained in conflict resolution, and can help the parties reach an agreement even in unlikely scenarios. If unsuccessful, the parties can always rely on the courts to make those decisions for them.
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