When you are about to embark on the process of divorce, of course you want it to be as smooth as possible. There are so many moving parts, conditions, and factors that go into separating your life from someone else’s (at least legally). To anyone, it can be daunting. However, the state of Tennessee has a way to make it a bit easier to smooth out all the rough edges — mediation.
Mediation is not for everyone. Especially if the divorce is less-than-amicable, you may be worried that your ex-spouse is not exactly great at working with others — yourself included. Mediation is required in all Tennessee divorce cases, with some limited exceptions, such as cases involving domestic violence. So, knowing that it may be an unavoidable part of the process, you should know how give yourself the greatest chances of success.
What are the pros and cons of mediation in divorce?
As with anything, there are pros and cons with using mediation in divorce. This is an option many separating couples use and most of them are happy with the results, but you still want to do your research.
First, let’s examine the pros of mediation in divorce:
- Faster resolution, as it is informal and does not rely on the court’s time.
- Professional help navigating your divorce, from dividing assets to determining custody, by someone who does it for a living.
- More control over the outcome, as you and your spouse make decisions by mutual agreement instead of from a judge. You are also able to get more creative with the solutions to your issues, meaning it can be great for complex and unique family situations.
- Significant monetary savings compared to hiring an attorney for non-mediation purposes, though we do recommend choosing a mediator who is ALSO an attorney for the most seamless process.
To a lot of people, this seems pretty great! And it absolutely can be! But there are still cons to be aware of. Fewer, granted, but they can be deal-killers:
- If your mediator is not an attorney, they cannot negotiate for you or give you any legal advice. You will need to educate yourself on the law and trust that education enough to stake your savings on it.
- Unhealthy couples with power imbalances cannot work with mediation. If one spouse is abusive, vindictive, or known to lie, the mediation can fall apart as its success relies on the full cooperation of both parties. This includes honesty, respect, and a level playing field so no one can manipulate, intimidate, or lie to the other.
Remember that mediation is not bound by the rules of court, and your mediator can only do so much if things go sideways. In a similar vein, you and your spouse have to hire the mediator together — you don’t each get your own (that would be collaborative divorce). This means that working together is paramount from the very beginning for mediation to work.
Moving forward after mediation
If you were able to make mediation work for you, your next step is filing for an uncontested divorce. Essentially, this means that you two already agree on most of the terms — because you’ve already discussed it in mediation. It may change from case to case, but overall, you and your spouse should be in agreement on all of the following:
As you may be able to imagine, couples divorcing without dependent children usually have a much easier time — but those are the couples the courts typically don’t make mediate. The issues listed above can be incredibly drawn-out and expensive when handled through the court, so trust us, this is a good thing!
Since uncontested divorce happens after all the drama has been settled, it’s the fastest way to get a divorce in almost every circumstance. Typically, you are looking at about a 90-day waiting period if you have children, and 60 days if you don’t. Of course, depending on asset division and other complications, it could take longer, but still faster than a normal contested divorce.
Some may be tempted to represent themselves in court for their uncontested divorce, figuring that all the problems are figured out anyways. And we’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again — we do not recommend this! Yes, it would be cheaper in the moment, but attorneys are trained to catch issues and problems the average layperson cannot and can fix them before they escalate. Without this, you could find yourself either accidentally agreeing to terms that aren’t fair to you, losing more than you wanted, or even getting the short-end of the custody stick. Basically, it can be more expensive — and traumatic — for you in the long run, so even if you choose a mediator who is not an attorney, at least make sure an attorney is with you in court afterwards.
Many people only experience a divorce once in their lives, which means it can be incredibly daunting and scary — emotional pain notwithstanding. But there are professionals who can help every step of the way, no matter what your unique path to freedom looks like. At Shepherd & Long, P.C., our experienced Maryville divorce attorneys and mediators have been through this before and we know how to get you through it, too. We proudly serve Blount County and all of East Tennessee. To get started, give us a call at 865-982-8060 or use our contact form. Let’s get your life back together.