Divorce mediation does not always end in a full agreement. Sometimes, there are a few topics you can’t agree on or you find that mediation isn’t right for you.
You have a few options to resolve your divorce if you don’t agree on everything in mediation the first time around.
Return to mediation
If you made some progress in meditation, it might be worth trying again.
You can stick with the same mediator or hire a new one if you believe a different approach might help. Look at the details of your case. Are there children involved? Complex financial issues? Make sure your mediator has the experience to handle your case. If not, find one who does. Hiring lawyers to join you or give advice beforehand may also help the process.
Time to reassess your situation may be what’s needed to help usher you toward an agreement. Consider stepping away and returning at a later date.
Try another alternative dispute resolution (ADR) method
There are other ADR methods that can help you reach a divorce settlement agreement.
You can try to negotiate an agreement with your spouse on your own or you can each hire a lawyer to help. A lawyer can help you see things from a legal perspective and give insight into what may happen if you go to court. This may give you the incentive to reach a settlement.
Collaborative law is similar to mediation. Each parent has a lawyer, and other professionals like financial planners and child specialists complete the collaborative team that helps you facilitate an agreement. If the process is unsuccessful and parents decide to go to court, they must get new lawyers.
Arbitration takes the final decision out of your hands. You and your spouse will present evidence (e.g., documents, witnesses) in support of how you believe the divorce should resolve. Then, an arbitrator will decide the terms of your divorce.
Many areas allow mediation-arbitration. Before starting mediation, parents agree that they will go to arbitration if they don’t reach a full agreement in mediation.
Go to court
Start a court case if you don’t see any way to reach an agreement on the issues at hand. Either parent can file for divorce first. Then, you’ll go through the divorce process, which may be shorter if you reached a partial agreement in mediation.
Many divorce cases don’t go to trial. You can continue pursuing an agreement during your court case.
It’s better to try and fail than to have never tried at all
You might feel disappointed if you don’t walk away from mediation with a full agreement. However, just trying can be beneficial. Mediation can help you realize the value of communication even if you don’t end up on the same page.
The beauty of mediation is that it is tailored to you. You can leave the process at any time, it’s all on your timetable rather than the court’s calendar, and there is no shortage of options if it doesn’t go the way you planned.
This article was first published in the ACR (Association for Conflict Resolution) Family Section Newsletter, Fall, 2001.Most conflicts are about circumstances or situations that happened in the past—a doctor’s errant...By Robert Benjamin