Divorce can be an emotionally taxing and financially draining experience for couples. Traditional courtroom battles often exacerbate the pain and can lead to prolonged conflicts. However, there's an alternative that offers a more amicable and cost-effective approach – divorce mediation (also called Family Law Mediation). Attorney Daniel L. Ellis was first listed as a Rule 31 Mediator by the Tennessee Supreme Court's Alternative Dispute Resolution Commission in 2015. He is currently, as of September 6, 2023, a Rule 31 listed Civil and Family Mediator with additional training in Domestic Violence Issues. In this blog post, we will explore the many benefits of mediating divorce cases and how it can be a game-changer for those navigating the challenging waters of divorce.
- Reduced Emotional Stress
Divorce is often an inherently stressful and emotional process, and litigation can intensify these emotions. Mediation can provide a safe and neutral environment. Most commonly parties will spend most of the mediation in separate rooms with the mediator traveling between rooms. This is often called ‘shuttlecock mediation’ as the mediator like a shuttlecock in badminton goes between the rooms facilitating the mediation, conveying offers, and supporting a participant driven process where by parties can discuss their concerns privately with the mediator and their Attorney and reach agreements. Mediator Daniel L. Ellis has helped mediate Marital Dissolution Agreements which included Permanent Parenting Plans for divorcing parties through this type of mediation. In some mediations all the parties will start in the same room for opening statements or stay in the same room for most or all of the mediation. This seems to be less popular of an option, and sometimes is an inappropriate option if there are safety concerns or a no-contact order of protection. However, when appropriate Mediatior Ellis has helped parties, even unmarried parents mediate parenting plans in the same room using time tested mediation techniques. Determining what type of mediation is appropriate to the specifics of your case is a crucial part of planning and preparation before the mediation even begins. A properly planned and well executed mediation can often reduced the emotional toll, help the parties communicate more effectively, and explore and support sustainable agreements and compromises which are workable solutions for divorcing parties.
One of the most significant advantages of family mediation is its cost-effectiveness. Traditional divorces can be expensive due to complex and contentious discovery battles, hearings before the Court, motions to compel discovery, lengthy and argumentative depositions, attorney fees, court costs, and other legal expenses. Mediation typically requires fewer billable hours and can shave months or even years off of a complex divorce heading for trial. When you are prepared for mediation, mediation can be a more affordable option for couples seeking to conclude their divorce and move forward in their lives.
- Faster Resolution
Mediation often leads to quicker resolutions compared to the court system, especially with backlog in many courts due to delays during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Sometimes with the complex legal issues and complex schedules of Courts, Experts, Attorneys, Parties, and Witnesses cases can drag on for months or even years. In mediation, both parties work together to find common ground, which often expedites the process and allows them to move onward with their lives.
- Greater Control
In a courtroom divorce, a Judge makes the final decisions, leaving both parties with limited control over their outcomes. Even if you and your experienced Attorney have the law and the facts on your side, a new ruling, new law, or just unexpected ruling from a Judge can give you an outcome that neither party really wants. Mediation puts the power back in the hands of the divorcing couple. They can decide what's best for their unique situation, ensuring with the help of the mediator and often their knowledgeable attorneys that the final agreement aligns with their needs and desires and will work in practice.
- Improved Communication
Divorce mediation encourages open and honest communication. Even after the divorce is finalized many divorced couples will have to communicate regularly about their children or other issues. A concluded divorce where the divorcing parties are completely unable to communicate with each other is sometimes necessary, but most often it is a missed opportunity and conflicts without communication will usually end up back before a Judge. However, with the assistance of a trained mediator, couples can express their concerns, priorities, and wishes in a constructive manner in a process which seeks to enhance the possibility that both sides are really hearing each other’s concerns in a way which leads all parties to a sustainable agreement. This improved communication can be especially invaluable, especially when co-parenting is involved.
- Customized Agreements
Every divorce is unique, and cookie-cutter solutions may not work for everyone. Traditional Alimony agreements, sell the house and divide the proceeds, or week on week off visitation may or may not work for you. Fifty-Fifty parenting may be just what you need, but for the next couple where one party’s work schedule prohibits that from working a different solution may be needed. Mediation allows couples to craft personalized agreements that suit their specific circumstances. This flexibility ensures that the final divorce settlement is tailored to their family's needs. Attaining at an agreement is great, but arriving at an agreement that is reality tested and really works with improved communication between the parties is even better.
- Preserved Relationships
For couples with children, mediation can sometimes help preserve or at times avoid further damaging co-parenting relationships. When parents work together to create a parenting plan, it sets a positive tone for their future interactions and minimizes the potential for ongoing conflicts, and sets a framework for approaching future conflicts in a new way where sometimes active listening and brainstorming is possible even without need for additional future mediations. Broadly speaking, mediation is a tool to encourage communication and brainstorming solutions; and that tool can be used by couples in other areas of their professional and personal lives.
In Tennessee, Mediation proceedings are confidential, unlike public courtroom hearings. This privacy can be particularly appealing to individuals who wish to keep the details of their divorce out of the public eye. In Tennessee we even have a specific statute which addresses the confidentiality of information and documents in mediation. That statute is Tennessee Code Annotated Section 36-4-130 sets forth in part (a) that "When the parties to a divorce action mediate the dispute, the mediator shall not divulge information disclosed to the mediator by the parties or by others in the course of mediation. All records, reports, and other documents developed for the mediation are confidential and privileged." In part (b) of that statute there are several exceptions including any legally mandated report of child abuse or neglect because everyone in Tennessee is a mandatory reporter of child abuse and neglect. However, the same statute continues in part (c) to still further restricts the mediator from being compelled to testify in any proceeding unless an incredibly high standard is met. That standard is that “all parties to the mediation and the mediator agree in writing” and that is incredibly unlikely.
- Reduced Adversarial Atmosphere
Litigation can create an adversarial atmosphere, pitting spouses against each other. Mediation, on the other hand, promotes cooperation and problem-solving. This collaborative approach can lead to more agreeable post-divorce relationships.
Divorce mediation offers a set of tools and a range of benefits that can make the process less stressful, more cost-effective, and more satisfactory for all parties involved. By choosing mediation, couples can take control of their future, can sometimes improve their relationships, and find closure in a healthier, more amicable way. If you're going through a divorce, consider the advantages of mediation, and consult with a qualified mediator like Daniel L. Ellis at 865-235-1787 and we can explore this option further together.