How Mediation Works in Arkansas
The legal process of divorce can be among the most emotionally draining and difficult things a person can undergo. Most people struggle to cope with the financial and emotional stress customary to the normal divorce process. Given the heavy demands of the divorce process, many people are turning to an alternative method of dissolving a marriage: mediation. In this post, we will provide a general overview of the mediation process, and then highlight a few of the key advantages offered by this procedure. In many cases, mediation can be an effective and financially beneficial means to settle a marital dissolution.
Overview of the Mediation Process
The mediation process is quite different from the traditional court-based divorce process with which many people are familiar. In mediation, the parties of the divorce select a mediator. This person acts as the intermediary between the parties and is the person in charge of facilitating and finalizing the whole process. In many cases, the mediator will be an attorney, although this is not a requirement. Most of the time, the parties hire their own family law attorneys to assist them through the process. Mediators do not provide legal advice to the parties, and so this is where a private attorney can be very useful.
With the help of the mediator, the parties attempt to develop agreements on all aspects of the divorce including spousal support, child custody and visitation, property division, and so forth. If the parties are able to reach agreements on certain aspects of the divorce, but not others, then the parties may ultimately use the court system to finalize the unresolved issues. If the parties are unable to reach an agreement on any of the issues, court intervention will be required; however, the negotiations and records of the mediation will be kept strictly confidential. State programs and the benefits of mediation are pushing more courts in Arkansas to require that the parties to a divorce or custody case attend mediation prior to any final hearing being held in their case. When agreements are reached in mediation, those agreements will be reduced to court order and are legally binding, with the same weight as agreements developed in court.
Key Advantages of Mediation
There are several major advantages of mediation over the traditional court-based process. One of the primary advantages is financial. The cost of any given mediation varies widely depending on the circumstances, as some divorces are much more complicated than others. The cost of mediation is separate from the cost of hiring an attorney to provide private legal counsel during the mediation. All in, when compared with many divorces which go through the normal court-based process, mediation can be a phenomenal bargain. In an effort to support and facilitate parents’ access to and visitation with their children, Arkansas developed the Access and Visitation Mediation Program which can help streamline the mediation process. The program offers mediation services for issues related to custody, visitation, and child support at a reduced rate based on income.
Another advantage is the informal nature of mediation. The informal setting results in less stress for the parties when compared with court-based processes. Parties can arrange their mediation session according to their own schedule, rather than dealing with dates set by the court. What’s more, the environment of mediation is typically less intimidating and more congenial than the courtroom. This can go a long way toward alleviating the stress of the divorce process. Mediation affords the parties the opportunity to have their voices and interests heard and maintain a level of control over the outcome of their own issues which, ultimately, works to promote a co-parenting relationship.
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