You get to decide how you will divorce—there are various divorce process options from which you can choose. Each process has its own unique advantages and disadvantages. It is worth taking the time to choose the best option for you and your partner/spouse.
If you live in the Seattle/King County area and would like to learn whether divorce mediation is best for you, contact Seattle divorce mediator Mark Weiss by filling out the form on this page.
When considering what will be the best option, remember that divorce is a life transition that affects both relationships and finances. Your choices can affect not only yourself, but also your children, your family, and your friends. Divorce always has financial, legal, and emotional components. Consider which approach will best allow you and your spouse to address all components of divorce—financial, social, co-parenting, and emotional.
In divorce mediation, you and your spouse work together with an impartial mediator to reach agreement. You identify concerns and goals, evaluate options to address needs, and work towards agreement by working with a facilitator in the same room. A bit like a business negotiation, you are working with each other to address your individual interests while understanding that any agreement must make sense to both of you. Attorneys are not part of the mediation process. It’s the job of the mediator educate, keep the conversation on track, and help organize the tasks, so you and your spouse can successfully reach good agreements based on your own priorities. (Legal advice is available from the parties’ own attorneys before and after mediation sessions.)
Evey mediator has a unique style and skill set. Some mediators have special expertise they can bring to mediation to help you understand the impacts of different decisions. (Mark Weiss, for example, is certified as a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® in addition to having a background as an experienced divorce lawyer, which helps inform his work as mediator.)
Mediation can be less expensive than other divorce processes, because you are working primarily with one professional. An experienced mediator can lead you through divorce up to the point of having the details of your agreement in hand. At that point, mediators hand off the preparation of binding legal documents to the parties’ lawyer(s), because mediators in Washington may not prepare binding legal documents or give legal advice.
Collaborative Law (Collaborative Divorce)
Collaborative Law/Divorce does not use mediation. Instead, you and our spouse each have a trained Collaborative lawyer whose may only work to help you reach an agreement. Collaborative lawyers are legally prohibited from participating in adversarial court or arbitration proceedings.
As in mediation, agreements are reached through discussion. The lawyers jointly facilitate the discussions, provide individual advice and support, and handle the legal aspects of the divorce. Often, an interdisciplinary team is part of the process. The additional professionals often include a neutral financial specialist, a divorce coach, and a child specialist.
Conventional “Old-Style” Divorce
Conventional old-style divorce negotiation is rooted in the adversarial system. The theory behind the adversarial system is that a judge will ascertain the truth when presented with two strongly advocated positions. Because the system is premised on each “side” taking a position, the adversarial system tends to entrench or create adversaries. The focus of each opponent is to try to win (or to not lose) at the expense of the other. As each side tries to maneuver for perceived advantage, the court is often invoked and involved throughout the proceeding even when there is no trial.
Old-style divorce negotiation is usually based on trying to convince the other side that they will lose in court, often with overt or implied threats. The hope is that someone will blink first and accept partial or complete defeat. Because the focus of negotiation is on what might happen in court, only a limited menu of options can be considered.
If you live in the Seattle or King County area and would like to learn whether divorce mediation is a good fit for you, contact Seattle divorce mediator Mark Weiss at (206) 622-6707.
Most cases that follow the litigation model are settled, often at a settlement conference. (Old-style lawyers and judges sometimes refer to settlement conferences as “mediation.”) At a settlement conference, the lawyers will present the arguments and “evidence” that would be presented at trial, to try to push the other side into conceding. The neutral settlement conference master will try to convince both sides to compromise. Because the negotiations modeled on this process are designed so that at least one side has to accept defeat to settle (just like in court), dissatisfaction is high and subsequent legal proceedings to enforce or modify agreements are common. And, if no one blinks, the case goes to court and a judge decides.
Which Divorce Process Will You Choose?
The door to the courthouse is always open. It’s up to you and your spouse to choose to work together to reach agreement. If you prefer to work together towards agreement, be sure to tell your spouse. Chances are that your spouse will not know your intentions unless you are clear in your statements, and your statements and behavior are in alignment with each other. Make it easy for them to make the choice you prefer.