Divorce mediation is a more amicable, less expensive, and quicker alternative to traditional divorce litigation. In mediation, you and your spouse hire a mediator to help you analyze your divorce case and guide you through the negotiation process so that you can understand the issue in your case and reach acceptable terms for your divorce.
To resolve a case at our Lehigh Valley, PA divorce mediation office, a couple typically meets with a mediator for 1-4 mediation sessions, with each session lasting between 1 and 2 hours.
Starting the Divorce Mediation Process in Lehigh Valley, PA
Once you and your spouse have decided to resolve your divorce through mediation, the first step is to find a divorce mediator. You do not need to file for divorce or go through the Lehigh Valley, PA Court of Common Pleas before beginning the divorce mediation process. You and your spouse simply have to agree to try divorce mediation and find a mediator whose pricing, qualifications, and personality you both find acceptable. Ideally, you want to choose a mediator who is local to Lehigh Valley, PA, as they will be more familiar with the local rules and customs governing your divorce.
The Initial Consultation for Divorce Mediation in Lehigh Valley, PA
After you and your spouse have identified a potential mediator, the first step in the divorce mediation process in Lehigh Valley, PA is the initial consultation. At the initial consultation, you and your spouse will meet with a divorce mediator at his or her private office, or over a video conferencing app such as Zoom, to learn about the mediation process. This meeting will give the attorney-mediator an opportunity to learn more about you and your spouses’ individual situation in order to make recommendations for the next steps. The goal of the initial consultation is for the couple to feel comfortable with the attorney-mediator and the mediation process he or she employs.
After evaluating your case, the attorney-mediator will make recommendations for how you should proceed, and determine how much divorce mediation will cost in Lehigh Valley, PA, and give you an estimate based on the particular details of your situation. The attorney-mediator will disclose all costs and fees upfront.
After the initial consultation, should you choose to proceed with the process, you will sign a mediation agreement, pay the mediation fee (or at least a portion of it upfront), and begin to prepare for your first mediation session.
Most mediators will also ask that you sign a non-disclosure agreement stating that you will keep your discussions in mediation confidential.
Prepare for Divorce Mediation in Lehigh Valley, PA
Once you have signed your mediation retainer agreement, paid your mediation fee, and scheduled your first mediation session, your attorney-mediator will likely ask you to provide him or her with background information or they will provide you with a list of things to bring to the mediation. For example, if the case involves issues of dividing assets or support, the attorney-mediator may ask you to gather and send financial documentation such as tax returns and account statements or prepare a budget or outline of expenses and needs.
In addition, you should also mentally prepare for divorce mediation by thinking about the issues that are most important to you and identifying what you are willing to compromise on.
For more information on preparing for divorce mediation, check out our ultimate divorce mediation checklist.
Beginning to Mediate Your Divorce in Lehigh Valley, PA
Once you have completed the initial steps to prepare for mediation, it will be time for first mediation session. Expect this session to last between one and two hours. The mediator will start off the meeting by providing an overview of the mediation process. After that, you and your spouse will be given an opportunity to explain the situation from your point of view. The mediator will then ask follow-up questions to help get a better understanding of your situation.
What Happens During Divorce Mediation in Lehigh Valley, PA
Because the circumstances of each case are unique, every mediation session is different.
In general, you and your spouse will meet with your attorney-mediator in his or her conference room. The goal is for the couple to feel as comfortable as possible. Mediation sessions are confidential and private between the spouses and the attorney-mediator.
During the mediation session, the three of you will begin by identifying and discussing the issues that need to be resolved, and you and your spouse will each have the opportunity to express your priorities, goals, and concerns as they relate to those issues.
Once the issues have been identified, you and your spouse will exchange relevant financial documentation (if there are financial issues) in order to value assets that will be distributed.
If your case involves custody, you and your spouse will discuss all issues related to custody, including schedules (both the kids’ and yours), living arrangements, transportation, holidays, vacations, and any other relevant issues and concerns.
After each mediation session, your attorney-mediator will draft a memorandum of understanding (“MOU”) detailing the topics discussed at the mediation session, the agreements reached, and any topics that still need to be covered at the next mediation session (if applicable). The attorney-mediator will send both you and your spouse the MOU, which you should review carefully as the attorney-mediator will use this document as a guideline for the parties’ agreement.
The Conclusion of Divorce Mediation in Lehigh Valley, PA
Once you and your spouse have come to an agreement on all of the relevant issues, the attorney-mediator will draft the relevant agreement(s) that will be submitted to the court in Lehigh Valley, PA which may include: a martial settlement agreement (the agreement dealing with your property and support issues), a child custody agreement and/or a separate support agreement. The drafted agreements will then be circulated for you and your spouse to review and sign. Depending on the terms of the agreement, once the agreement is signed, you may have to begin performing the terms of the agreement which might include closing bank accounts, transferring titles, and paying off debt.
Once the agreement is signed, your divorce mediator will process the divorce paperwork through the Lehigh Valley Court of Common Pleas. You will officially be divorced once the Lehigh Valley Court of Common Pleas signs off on the divorce decree, which usually takes several months after the initial court filing.