No one ever goes into marriage thinking one day it’s all going to end in a flurry of arguments and divorce papers. People change, however — it’s just a fact of life — meaning the two people who say “I do” in the beginning may not be the same people dissolving their marriage in the end.
So, do you take matters to court or settle things using mediation? It’s a choice that could be weighing heavily on your mind right now, especially if you’re like so many who have heard — or believe — these five divorce mediation myths:
1.) We can’t go through mediation. We don’t agree on anything!
Going through divorce mediation doesn’t mean you have to agree on everything from the onset.
The point of mediation is to help you and your spouse resolve divorce issues outside of the courtroom. If there are things you don’t agree on, you can work with a neutral mediator to find common ground and come to an agreement. The mediator may help you explore options neither one of you had even thought of.
2.) If I don’t go to court, our marital assets won’t be divided fairly.
The law is the law whether you go through mediation or traditional divorce proceedings. In many cases, mediation can be more beneficial in property division disputes because it gives couples control of dividing assets, not a judge. The property division is also usually one of the most expensive parts of a divorce in terms of attorneys fees, and if not resolved in mediation, could go on in the court system for 1-2 years or more. It may make sense to make reasonable compromises on this issue to avoid the time, stress, and expense of additional attorneys fees.
3.) The mediator is going to pressure me into saving my marriage or doing something I don’t want to do.
A mediator is neither a judge nor a family therapist. They are simply a neutral third party whose job is to facilitate discussions. While marriage counseling may be beneficial in some cases, the mediator’s role is not to address saving your marriage. The mediator is a neutral and will explain in the outset that they don’t have any legal authority to make decisions in your case and that your participation in the process is voluntary.
4.) Mediation takes too long! Going to court will be much quicker.
Even though mediation sessions do take time, they often take much less time than traditional divorce proceedings. It can take several months or years before a judge and courtroom become available and even longer before your case gets heard. With mediation, you can set your own meeting times, and you dictate the pace of negotiations.
5.) Going to court is the only way of ensuring a fair custody arrangement.
Because mediators aren’t allowed to give legal advice in North Carolina, some parents worry they won’t get a fair custody arrangement if they go through mediation rather than traditional divorce proceedings.
In North Carolina, however, parents can obtain legal counsel from an attorney before mediation proceedings, and they can be present during mediation negotiations. It is generally recommended that both parties have their own lawyer present with them at mediation. This ensures that you still have a legal advocate present who is concerned with your best interests and getting you a fair outcome.