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If you are getting divorced, chances are it is the first time you have been through this process. You can understandably be nervous, scared and confused about what will happen and what you can expect.

First, is it important to remember that you are not alone and you don’t have to navigate this process alone. You can work with an experienced family law attorney who can provide critical support and guidance. It can also be helpful to understand some general points about the mediation process in particular to make it less intimidating and mysterious, if mediation is an option you are exploring.

What is mediation?

Many people will mediate at least some of the matters related to their divorce; many will resolve everything in mediation. 

As such, we should explain that mediation is a cooperative alternative to litigation. It allows parties — divorcing spouses, in the case of divorce — to sit down in a room and attempt to work out issues together. A mediator is present to facilitate conversations, and each party can have an attorney to provide legal guidance.

An overview of the mediation process

As this article explains, mediation begins with a party’s request for mediation. If both parties agree to mediate, then they will choose a mediator and set the first meeting. Those involved may develop ground rules and guidelines to help keep discussions moving.

Often, divorce mediation takes at least a few sessions. During each session, parties will discuss various matters. Each side will have an opportunity to speak and respond, and the mediator may step in to keep a conversation moving or ask for clarification.

Under some circumstances, parties might meet with a mediator individually; they might also have their attorneys speak on their behalf while they are not in the room.

The decisions made in mediation are then presented to the courts for approval or put into binding contracts between the parties that are not provided to the court, but can be enforced by the court if necessary.  If parties cannot reach a decision on any matter, it can go before a judge for a ruling.

Knowing what to expect

Meditation is an excellent alternative to going to court, and understanding the basics of this process can make it less frightening. It can also make it easier for people to prepare for the next steps so that they can approach a divorce and the legal process more confidently.