These Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) are meant for general informational purposes only. Couples or individuals looking for more detailed information or recommendations about their specific situation should consult with a professional divorce mediator directly. Additionally, the information in these FAQs or elsewhere on the NYSCDM website or in its literature is not intended to be legal, accounting, financial, or any other type of professional advice. If you need professional advice of any kind, you are urged to contact the appropriate professional.
What is divorce mediation and how does it work?
What is divorce mediation? Divorce Mediation is a voluntary settlement process used by couples who want to divorce or separate. Divorce mediation gives couples the opportunity to make their own decisions. With the assistance of a trained divorce mediator, couples can reach an agreement that is custom-made for their families, finances and futures.
How does the divorce mediation process work? The couple meets with the divorce mediator for a number of sessions to review and discuss all of the issues that need to be decided by the couple for themselves and their children. The divorce mediator is responsible for facilitating the discussion, and the couple is responsible for making decisions regarding the various issues. Once all issues have been agreed upon, a written document detailing the couple’s agreement will be prepared.
What is the role of the divorce mediator? Without taking sides, a divorce mediator helps each couple come to an agreement that the participants feel will meet their individual needs and the needs of their family. Typically, a divorce mediator helps each partner better communicate individual needs and common interests so that they can explore reasonable options, make informed decisions and create solid agreements that benefit their family.
I’ve heard that with divorce mediation I don’t have to go to court. Is that true? Yes, it is true. If the mediation results in a mutually acceptable agreement, no court appearances by the couple are required.
What is the difference between separation and divorce? Couples can opt to live under a separation agreement for a variety of reasons – some to work on their marriage, most to begin the steps to end their marriage. The couple needs to make many of the same decisions whether they are separating or divorcing, including how they will manage their finances, divide their property, handle health insurance coverage, and share parenting responsibilities. To officially end their marriage, couples need to obtain a divorce decree issued by the court.
What are the typical steps during and after the divorce mediation process? The divorce mediation process has three stages:
- The couple meets with the divorce mediator to discuss and reach agreement on all issues that need to be addressed (parenting, financial support, division of assets and liabilities, and tax issues).
- The agreements reached during divorce mediation are put in a written document prepared by the divorce mediator and may be in the form of a Memorandum of Understanding, or a Separation Agreement or Marital Settlement Agreement.
- If the couple decides to finalize their divorce, the documents required for a divorce can be prepared, signed and filed with the Court.
Can same-sex partners or unmarried couples use divorce mediation? Absolutely. Couples can mediate their disputes whether they are legally married or not.
Where can I find a divorce mediator? On our NYSCDM website, click on the orange “Find a Mediator” button and search for a divorce mediator by city, county or name.
What else should I know about divorce mediation?
How is divorce mediation different from litigation?
- Divorce mediation is a cooperative process that addresses each individual’s (and their children’s) specific interests, concerns and needs moving forward. The neutral divorce mediator assists the couple in communicating in order to create a mutually beneficial agreement. The parties have total control over the outcome. Divorce mediation is cost effective, saves time and saves unwanted emotional turmoil for all members of the family.
- On the other hand, litigation is an adversarial process in which both parties retain attorneys to go to court. The parties have little, if any, control over the process and the outcome. Litigation is an expensive and lengthy process wrought with emotional turmoil.
How is divorce mediation different from couples’/marital therapy? Divorce mediation’s goal is to assist the couple to separate amicably. In contrast, the goal of couples/marital therapy is typically to help the couple stay together.
Are conversations during divorce mediation confidential? Yes. At the outset of divorce mediation couples sign an agreement to keep discussions and any information shared in sessions confidential. This encourages open and productive discussion and provides privacy.
How are decisions made? Issues are resolved by the individuals with the assistance of the divorce mediator. The divorce mediator will ensure that all issues necessary for separation or divorce in New York are raised and will help the couple explore and review their options.
Will I need my own attorney? It’s a personal choice. A divorce mediator can provide couples with legal information, but is unable to offer legal advice. If either individual wants legal advice at any point in the process, or prior to signing any legal documents, that person should consult with an attorney.
What other professionals can be involved in the divorce mediation process? In most cases, the divorce mediator can help couples address all of their issues. However, if some issues are more complicated, the divorce mediator may recommend that the couple consult with other professionals such as a financial analyst, accountant, family therapist, child specialist or parenting coordinator.
We already hired attorneys and started litigation; can we switch to divorce mediation? Yes. Divorce mediation can be introduced at any stage even after litigation has started. If a couple comes to a point where litigation has become unproductive, they can turn to divorce mediation and take the decision-making process into their own hands.
Why should I choose divorce mediation?
Why are more couples using divorce mediation as their preferred choice to separate or divorce? Many couples choose divorce mediation rather than a litigated divorce because they find it is more beneficial for their families. It gives them control over decision making for themselves and their family. Divorce mediation encourages collaboration and communication and provides greater privacy. Participants are more likely to abide by agreements they made in divorce mediation.
I heard that divorce mediation is quicker and costs less. Is that true? Yes. Couples often find that divorce mediation helps them reach decisions more quickly and eliminates the high costs associated with a litigated divorce.
How can divorce mediation help parents? Divorce mediation is more emotionally protective of children, especially because the divorce mediation process helps couples become better communicators with each other and co-parent more effectively now and in the future. Even after they are divorced, many parents continue to benefit from their improved communication and dispute resolution skills as new issues arise.
What if I’m facing serious issues; is divorce mediation still an option?
Is divorce mediation for everyone? In the vast majority of cases – yes. Even if partners do not agree on much, divorce mediation could still be an option. Couples can check out The Divorce Mediation Quiz to see if divorce mediation is their best choice. If a couple thinks that divorce mediation could be a good solution for their family, they can learn more by meeting with a divorce mediator who can answer questions specific to their situation. However, in certain circumstances, such as where there is domestic violence, a refusal to fully disclose financial information or substance abuse, divorce mediation might not be appropriate.
I’m ready to come to divorce mediation, but my spouse is not; can we still move forward? It is very common for one person to be ready before the other. The individual who is ready may benefit from allowing the other person time to come to terms with the idea that the marriage/relationship is over. The divorce mediator may be able to facilitate a discussion about this in order to help the couple move forward.
Does divorce mediation work even in high conflict situations? Yes, conflict can exist in divorce mediation. A divorce mediator will create a safe and balanced environment where both parties can communicate their needs and expectations. The divorce mediator will structure the conversation so that both points of view can be shared.
What about our children?
I’ve heard that divorce mediation is easier on families, especially children. Is that true? Yes. The divorce mediator is able to help couples make decisions in the best interest of their children by keeping them out of the conflict. As they go through the divorce mediation process, many couples develop a better way to communicate and co-parent.
How are custody and parenting arrangements determined? In divorce mediation, couples have the opportunity to develop a customized parenting schedule that will address the needs of the entire family. The divorce mediator will help families generate various shared parenting options for holidays, vacations, weekdays, weekends, and any special circumstances.
How are expenses handled for children? The divorce mediator will explain New York’s Child Support Standards Act and work with a couple to create a budget so that they can come to a mutually acceptable agreement that addresses their children’s financial needs, including health expenses, education, extracurricular activities and any additional expenses.