Negotiating divorce settlements in Ohio and around the country involves tackling some delicate and potentially contentious matters. Discussing issues like spousal support and property division can be difficult when spouses harbor animosity toward one another or the marital estate is complex, but leaving these matters for a judge to decide involves taking risks and airing grievances in public. Resolving civil matters in court can also be expensive, but there are alternative approaches to dispute resolution that could help spouses to reach amicable agreements even in situations where protracted litigation seems inevitable.
Divorcing spouses may agree to mediation voluntarily, or it may be ordered by a judge. Courts are more likely to order mediation when young children are involved and divorcing spouses are unable to reach an agreement concerning custody and visitation. Judges see mediation as being particularly useful in family law disputes because the parties involved will often continue to have a relationship after their legal issues have been resolved.
Mediation is often likened to arbitration, but there is a very important difference between the two approaches. Mediators are expected to help the parties involved in a dispute to find common ground and negotiate in good faith, but they do not have the authority to impose a settlement. In arbitration proceedings, the parties argue their cases and then the arbitrator makes a binding decision. However, the agreements reached during mediation are generally binding and enforceable after they have been signed. When mediation fails to produce an amicable resolution, the spouses may choose to try again with a different mediator or settle their disputes in court.
Experienced family law attorneys may suggest divorce mediation when negotiations are at a standstill and the opinion of an independent third party might be beneficial. Attorneys may seek to avoid the need for litigation by working with spouses to identify goals and find areas of agreement before negotiations begin.