Maryville Divorce Mediation Lawyers
Alternative dispute resolution for divorce in Blount County & East Tennessee
When couples divorce in Tennessee, courts typically require them to attend mediation. Sometimes called alternative dispute resolution (ADR), mediation is a process where a trained and neutral third party (mediator) meets with you and your spouse to help resolve your disputes without having to go to court.
The mediator’s job is guiding couples through the process of resolving any issues arising from a divorce. A mediator doesn’t force partners into agreement, or make any judgements, but instead works together with the couple to help them arrive at their own solutions. The Maryville family law attorneys at Shepherd & Long, P.C. have years of experience helping clients just like you. And, Attorney Kevin Shepherd is a skilled and professionally trained mediator sought out by other attorneys to help their clients resolve their divorce cases.
What is divorce mediation in Tennessee?
Mediation is a negotiation process between parties to work out issues during a divorce, like property and asset division, or to settle issues around child custody and child support. It is an out-of-court, more informal process where the two parties can reach a mutually satisfactory solution to any disputes. Mediation is also much less adversarial, which makes it a good choice for couples who are willing to work together.
A mediator is neutral, and receives information about the case from each party’s attorney. They can explain the strengths and weaknesses of each side, and guide the couple to agreement – however, a mediator has no decision-making authority. They are a facilitator only, and couples are not legally bound to follow a mediator’s suggestions or recommendations.
Is mediation required in Tennessee divorce?
Tennessee state law requires that in a contested divorce, both parties in a divorce must attempt to settle their disputes through mediation before a judge will set a trial date. However, under certain conditions, the court will waive mediation in the following circumstances:
- If either party cannot afford the costs of hiring a mediator, unless the mediator fee is waived or subsidized
- If the parties have already filed a marital dissolution agreement or other final order addressing all settlement issues
- If the parties have already met with the court for a settlement conference
- If the court believes mediation will result in an impasse
This method of alternative dispute resolution can save time and money, and avoid litigation. However, mediation is not for everyone. Let’s look at the pros and cons of mediation.
Advantages of mediation
Some of the benefits of divorce mediation include:
- Cost savings. When a divorce goes to litigation, court costs and attorney fees can quickly add up, especially when a case drags on because a couple cannot compromise. Coming to agreement through mediation can save tens of thousands of dollars in some cases.
- Equitably work out asset division. Mediation gives you the time you need to work out any complex property division issues. An experienced mediator has access to CPAs, real estate experts, and other financial professionals to help guide you through a fair division of assets.
- Faster resolution of your case. Instead of waiting on a court docket for weeks or months, you have control over when to set up your mediation sessions. You and your spouse can choose the times and dates most convenient for you to get the process started immediately.
- Privacy and discretion. Mediation gives you the privacy that a courtroom trial will not. With mediation, you do not go before a judge – in fact, all mediation is done behind closed doors, with only a few people in attendance. Your personal and family information stays private, the way it should.
- Sets a positive tone. Not only can mediation help ex-spouses maintain a congenial relationship, it also allows both parties to walk away feeling mutually satisfied with the settlement, and can help foster more successful negotiations in the future.
Disadvantages of mediation
Some of the cons of divorce mediation include:
- Can be one-sided. If one party is overly timid or unable to properly communicate their needs, they may end up with an agreement that favors the other party.
- Hiring the wrong mediator. Working with a mediator who is not an attorney can lead to future problems. If a mediator doesn’t use the proper language or draft an agreement properly, a divorce settlement filing may not be approved by the court.
- Mediation can fail. If mediation fails, spouses must move to litigation to resolve their disputes. This could put pressure on each party to come to agreement if they are strongly opposed to going to court.
Talk to Shepherd & Long to determine if mediation is right for you. Kevin Shepherd is a trained mediator and is happy to guide you in the right direction.
How does the Tennessee mediation process work?
The mediation process is voluntary, non-adversarial, and informal. Whether the parties are negotiating issues involving children, property division, or alimony, the mediation process generally follows the same steps:
- Both parties agree to mediation. Each party has the right to choose legal representation.
- The parties schedule a meeting with the mediator in a neutral location. Typically, the parties are kept in separate rooms to minimize the stress of seeing each other.
- The mediator starts the meeting by outlining everyone’s roles, establishing ground rules, setting timeframes, and summarizing the issues in dispute.
- Each party, or their attorney, tells their side of the story (without interruption).
- The mediator asks questions, gathers information, summarizes progress, and works to build a rapport between parties.
- The mediator also works to find common ground between parties and identifies which issues can be solved easily and which will need more work.
- To resolve issues, mediators use tools like brainstorming, one-on-one meetings, and other problem-solving techniques.
- Lastly, the mediator drafts a final proposal mutually agreed-upon agreement for both parties, signed by each and their representative.
As you can see, this can be a much less stressful alternative to resolving your issues in court. Our East Tennessee marital attorneys have only one goal – to help you through your divorce as easily and as efficiently as possible.
Mediation attorneys in Maryville helping solve family disputes
Not every dispute or disagreement needs to end up in the courtroom. At Shepherd & Long, P.C., our attorneys are well-versed in alternative dispute resolution, including mediation. We work with our clients to ensure equitable and satisfactory outcomes for their family law issues. For more information, or to schedule a consultation, call us at 865-982-8060 or fill out our contact form. We regularly represent clients in Madisonville, Oak Ridge, Lenoir City and throughout East Tennessee.