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Can divorce mediation help with a contested divorce?

When there is a divorce in California, it is better for everyone if the couple can come to an agreement or at least be flexible in their demands as to how the process plays out. Unfortunately, the goal of an uncontested divorce is frequently unrealistic, and there are issues that can be difficult to settle. However, going to court is not always necessary. Instead, mediation might be useful way for a couple to work through their issues and settle their divorce.

When a spouse has filed for divorce and the respondent answers, and there are differences as to what each party is asking for, it will be considered a contested divorce. Understanding how to handle this and determining whether divorce mediation might be a suitable alternative is important. There are many reasons why a divorce can be contested. Some issues might be agreed upon with a few sticking points, or there might be disputes about basically the entire case.

While it is possible to list the agreed-upon issues and let a judge decide on everything else, mediation could be worthwhile. Having the case settled through mediation will not only save time and money, but it is also more collaborative than having the judge decide. A judge deciding on the case will usually leave one party unhappy with the outcome. The benefits of mediation are many, but some of the basics include that it can go a long way in keeping the relationship amicable and civil; it is private and the parties will not have to share their information in front of the court; it allows the couple to air out their differences and discuss matters rather than going through the rules and requirements of court; and it often works.

Having legal assistance with a divorce does not necessarily mean that the person will go to court. An experienced attorney can help with divorce mediation either by representing one of the parties -- the petitioner or the respondent -- or by serving as the mediator to assist the parties in coming to common ground to end the marriage. For some, divorce mediation is a viable alternative and should be considered in lieu of court. A lawyer can help couples learn more about mediation and divorce.

Source: courts.ca.gov, "Contested Process," accessed on Jan. 15, 2018

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John T. Chamberlin, Attorney at Law
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