When a married couple divorces, significant issues relating to property and children must be resolved before the court can issue a final order. If the spouses cannot agree on resolution, Las Vegas divorce mediation is an option for finding areas of agreement. The process may save the cost of a contested divorce proceeding, as well as alleviate some of the stress and emotional toll that can accompany a divorce proceeding.
Divorce mediation is a confidential process in which a neutral third person facilitates discussion between divorcing spouses. The goal is to find areas of agreement on issues involved in a divorce. In Nevada, mediation is conducted pursuant to state statutory provisions and rules of court adopted pursuant to those provisions.
A divorce mediator does not make decisions for the spouses or force agreement on issues. Mediation also is not marriage counseling or an effort for reconciliation. A mediator acts as a facilitator between the spouses, without taking sides with either person. The mediator attempts to find mutually agreeable solutions to issues between the parties on matters that affect the divorce, but does not provide legal advice to the spouses.
Generally, the mediation process is less contentious and less stressful than a contested divorce proceeding, which involves litigating issues in court before a judge. While mediators charge for their services, and the parties usually agree to share the costs, mediation typically less costs than resorting to court proceedings and decisions by a judge to settle disagreements.
Both spouses must agree to divorce mediation and to selection of the mediator who conducts the process. Even if the spouses agree to mediation, each party can benefit significantly from representation by an experienced divorce attorney. In the very least, spouses should never sign a mediation agreement without receiving advice from legal counsel. Ideally, each spouse should consult with a lawyer even before agreeing to mediation.
Mediation can help divorcing spouses resolve any of the matters that need to be addressed, including property and asset division and child custody and visitation. In many cases, the judge will require parents to complete mediation in a contested custody case, if the parents cannot resolve custody and visitation matters on their own or with assistance from their attorneys. Child support typically is based on the final terms for physical custody of the child and is not a topic for mediation.
With regard to property division, a mediator can facilitate discussions on all related issues, such as what happens to the marital home and other specific assets. If the spouses do not agree on what is community property or how it should be divided, a mediator tries to find mutually agreeable resolution of those disagreements.
When a mediator assists spouses with child custody and visitation issues, the goal is to help the parents develop a parenting agreement that reflects the best interests of their children. Mediation can cover legal and physical custody, as well as issues like holidays, special occasions, and vacations with children. Even the details about transportation and exchanges may be addressed.
Mediators have special background and training that enables them to work with the parties and assist with communication between the spouses. In the divorce mediation process, the participating parties (and their attorneys, if the parties wish) meet with the mediator in a neutral location. After explaining the ground rules, the mediator facilitates discussions between the spouses on unresolved issues.
Sometimes, mediation can resolve issues within a few hours. Other times, more than one session may be necessary. At the conclusion, if the spouses reach agreement on any issues, the agreements are reduced to writing for both parties to sign. If a spouse’s attorney is not present, the spouse may delay signing the agreement until an attorney has an opportunity to review it. After spouses sign the agreement, it is submitted to the court for the judge to consider in finalizing the terms of the divorce.
If mediation efforts are unsuccessful, and the parties cannot resolve outstanding issues themselves or with help from their lawyers, the court will make the decisions for the parties as part of the divorce proceeding.
Divorce mediation can work well in some situations, but it is not necessarily the right choice in all situations. Since the spouses must agree on mediation, it is only an option if both parties are willing to participate and amenable to finding solutions to disagreements.
Making an informed decision about mediation, and knowing exactly what to expect — as well as understanding it does not accomplish — is extremely important. Your lawyer also can attend the sessions with you, to help you make decisions during the mediation process.
If you agree to mediation and participate without a lawyer, you should not sign a mediation agreement unless your attorney has reviewed the agreement and makes certain that you understand all the terms.
Experienced Las Vegas family law attorney Joseph Gersten assists clients with all concerns that arise in Clark County divorce cases, including consideration of divorce mediation as an option for resolving differences over property division and child custody.
At The Gersten Law Firm, your initial consultation is always free. We assist clients in Las Vegas, Henderson, and throughout Clark County with all types of family and domestic matters. Call 702.857.8777 or complete our online form to schedule an appointment.