Divorce Without Court: Westside Collaborative Law uses conflict-resolution techniques based on the Dispute Resolution Center system and the research on relationships and communication developed by The Gottman Institute.
Most people want an easy, private divorce process that is low-stress. Mediation is a simple solution. It can also be a huge time saver. Your entire divorce can be finished without setting foot in a court room. You and your spouse can save time and money if you agree to talk through your issues with a mediator or mediator team.
Types of Mediation:
The different types of mediation can be confusing. Here's a guide to help you know what type of mediation might be right for you and your spouse or partner,
This section will be short because mandatory mediation is the most stressful and expensive type of mediation. Everyone in King County who files for divorce must participate in a mandatory mediation before their trial. These types of mediation use a third-party mediator who is neutral and operates like a judge. Each spouse generally brings their own attorney to the mediation to advocate for their interests. Both sides prepare briefs and evidence to support their arguments. Mandatory mediation works like a mini-trial. It's private – everything you say is confidential. But it's also fairly stressful. If you can't work out your differences and agree to a settlement in mediation, then you go to trial. Only about 3-4% of all cases in King County will end in a trial. This is also the rarest type of mediation. Most people settle their property and visits with children much earlier.
Transformative mediation's objectives are empowerment and recognition rather than problem solving. The goal is to change how each party responds to conflict. The mediator focuses on how the parties talk to each other, rather than the specific issues. Transformative mediation is usually a part of any mediation, whatever the style. The mediator wants both parties to be heard and to understand and feel accepted in their perspective. Once both parties can feel safe and understood, then the mediator and the parties can explore a range of choices as well as a better understanding of each other's perspective.
Facilitative mediation helps the parties reach agreements that are based on shared information and understanding. The mediator works to find the underlying interests for each party – do they want a settlement that is fair? Are they worried most about safety and security? The parties then generate options in a way that helps each party reach the goals that are most important to them.
Evaluative mediators focus on the issues, rather than the feelings. The mediator tries to problem solve and create solutions. The mediator may make recommendations, or share their opinion and expertise.
Most people customize their mediation and use a mix of these styles, so most mediators will combine elements of these types of mediation styles. The mediator will try to make you comfortable and fit your needs.
What are the main benefits of mediation?
Efficiency and support are the major benefits to divorce with a mediator or mediator team. The biggest step in your divorce is coming to an agreement. A mediator can help you avoid having the same fights over and over. The mediator will identify your goals and concerns, and help you both support each other through a discussion of how to manage these in a fair process. Mediation is more productive because your discussions will stay focused. Mediation also allows both parties to be sure that they cover everything. Both partners will get equal time. This is more fair and, in the long run, saves time.
In addition to saving time, mediation allows both parties to feel more positive about the end of their relationship. Change is hard. In mediation, the partners can work out their differences and know that they both did their best to understand and to be fair to the other side. Most people are surprised by how much better they feel at the end of the mediation process.
How do I know if we are a good fit with mediation?
In order to mediate, both partners must meet four requirements.
1. Both parties can recognize that there is a divorce pending. Your mediator cannot break up with your spouse for you. Mediation is best handled after both partners agree to separate, and want to focus on the most fair way for the divorce to happen.
2. Both parties are willing to mediate. Mediation is an equal process. Both parties must be willing to accept that a fair result might not end with everything that one partner wants. In most situations, both parties get some of what they want, and both parties give up a little bit too. Mediation only works if both of you can be open and understanding about areas where you might not both want the same thing.
3. Both parties must be willing to keep to the terms of an agreement. Your mediation can be enforced in court, if you both agree to sign the required paperwork. But for the most part you are on your honor. Mediation is only successful if both of you are being honest and open with each other.
4. Both parties must be voluntary. Mediation is an amazing process, and most couples are very happy they stayed out of court. But one party cannot force another party to mediate. Mediation only works if both parties want to work out their agreements together.
Mediation may not be for everyone. Both parties must be willing to work with each other to have a successful and positive mediation. If one party feels coerced or controlled, then the mediation will fall apart, and the parties will end up in court anyway. Mediation requires the parties to take control of what they want, and to accept responsibility for their own outcomes. The parties can't blame each other. They share ownership of the process. Not everyone needs or wants to talk about their situation before they leave the marriage.
Procedurally, mediation can also be a little bit different than a typical lawsuit. Washington Rules of Professional Conduct require the mediator to advise the parties to hire an attorney to review the agreement before it's filed in court. This is optional, but it's a good step because it can help avoid any conflict of interest.
Steps for the mediation process
The steps to a mediation are agree, sign, and file.
1. To reach an agreement, the parties will meet once, or sometimes twice, to work out what they want their divorce to settle. Before they meet, the parties will give the mediator their personal information and a list of assets, including property, cars, and anything else that needs to be divided in the divorce to satisfy legal requirements. During the meeting, the parties will decide on a visit schedule for each parent with their children (if any) and divide their home and assets. Usually one partner keeps the house and gives the other partner money or a share of retirement assets or other property that totals their share of the equity in the home. The goal is for each partner to have roughly equal positions, at the end of the divorce.
2. After the parties reach an agreement, the mediator or a separate attorney will prepare documents for the court that each party will sign. In King County, a divorce will require Family Law forms 201, 001, 241, 231, 140, 130, and a Vital Statistics form, as well as a Declaration for the court. Most mediators help the partners work out a CR2A or settlement agreement that will be kept private. This agreement, and a debts/asset spreadsheet, divides the party's money, property, and other assets. This agreement is NOT filed with the court. It is kept private unless the parties have a dispute, and one former partner files the agreement in court in order to enforce its terms against the other partner. The separation agreement, or CR2A, is a contract that's enforceable like any other contract.
3. To file, either the parties or a mediator can take the agreement to court. Uncontested divorces are settled in the Ex Parte Department. If your mediator is an attorney (and ny conflicts of interest have been waived) then your mediator can file the documents in court for you. You never have to go to court.
How long will the mediation process take?
Most partners can mediate their divorce and file within a few weeks, to a couple months. A couple who have all their personal information on assets and liabilities ready to go, and who can agree on how they want to divide their assets, can usually sign their divorce paperwork after only one mediation session, and the paperwork may take a few days to a week or so to create after the mediation session.
Individual results may vary, however. Some partners delay the divorce to protect their feelings, or because they're not financially ready. And sometimes the parties don't yet have all the information they need to settle their assets without another meeting, or some more time. It's easy to change anything during the divorce process, and very difficult to adjust after your divorce is finalized. Generally taking your time is the best way to keep all your options open. Any agreements you make can be in place before the paperwork is finalized. Then you can set the pace and finalize the paperwork for the court after you have found and resolved any issues that come up.
If you're ready to divorce, and you're not fighting, the process to work out a mediated divorce can be very quick – a few weeks at most. Once you file your divorce petition, the court will make you wait 90 days before the final order can be signed. If you hired an attorney mediator, you won't need to go to court or do anything for this last step. Your divorce will be finalized for you, and both of you can enjoy the agreement that you made.
What will mediation cost?
The cost of your mediation depends mostly on how many sessions you decide to have. Most mediators charge $300 an hour for the session, and a comparable amount for the document preparation. Most divorces can be finished in about 6-10 hours of legal work. If you want to spend less, you can work with your mediator to lower the amount of time required. The less you're fighting, the faster you can finish, and the less your fees will be.
Mediation is safer for both parties
In mediation, a trained neutral person helps people discuss and resolve problems, or at least narrow and clarify issues. The process encourages joint problem solving in which people gain an understanding of each other's point of view. Mediation provides a safe environment to talk through issues and feelings and to negotiate a mutually satisfactory solution. The mediator is not a decision-maker. The mediator does not represent either party. Having a neutral third party helps most people to lower the conflict and move on. The goal is for everyone to end the process with steps and communication practices that will help both partners to move forward and move on in a positive way.