In Divorce Mediation, couples work together from the start of the divorce process with a neutral mediator. The mediator provides detailed legal information (but not legal advice) so that each spouse has a general idea of what Wisconsin law says about issues like property division, child support, maintenance, and child placement, and each understands the general range of possible outcomes of the divorce process.
The mediator also assists the couple in reaching their own agreements. The mediator does not act as an attorney for either party and cannot give either side legal advice. For that reason, we strongly recommend that each spouse to have an independent attorney representing him or her review any agreements before they are made final in the court. In some cases, spouses choose each to hire separate attorneys who advise them throughout the mediation process and even attend mediation sessions with the spouses.
The mediation process begins with a joint session to provide legal information about divorce and Wisconsin law. From there, each spouse meets separately with the mediator to discuss his or her goals, wishes, and interests in the divorce process, and the mediator screens the cases for any “red flags” that could make mediation inappropriate (such as domestic violence concerns or untreated substance abuse).
The couple then meets together, with the mediator, in a series of focused meetings targeting specific issues that need resolution, such as support, property division, or child placement. Each meeting has an agenda, and each meeting has homework assignments to be completed before the meeting so that the time spent together can be productive. At the end of the process, the mediator drafts a Marital Settlement Agreement.
Mediation can be a good option for couples who like the idea of Collaborative Divorce but who either do not want or cannot afford to hire attorneys to represent them for the entire divorce process. It is a lower-cost option than full legal representation, but the spouses have the comfort of knowing that they will have the same information on the law, and that important issues will not be overlooked. Couples who mediate a divorce rather than fighting in court may be better able to cooperate in the future, especially with the raising of children, than those who had decisions about their families imposed on them by a judge.