The stress around obtaining a divorce is high for all parties involved, particularly when it comes to child custody and dividing marital assets. It’s inevitable that many divorce proceedings will wind up with attorneys fighting it out in court. However, the choice of pursuing divorce mediation can lessen the drama, cost, and time of getting a divorce.
Divorce Mediation in Tennessee
In Tennessee, it is a requirement to pursue mediation first in any divorce proceedings. Mediation is one of several forms of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) in the state.
Tennessee defines divorce mediation as the work of a neutral third party to facilitate ADR in a divorce. This mediator works with the divorcing parties and their representatives to reach a mutual agreement on issues raised. The goal of mediation is to resolve disputes between divorcing parties in a way that satisfies both of them. When mediation is pursued, parties can reach an agreement on even the most contentious issues, like child custody. It doesn’t always work out that way, but not only is it required by Tennessee law to try, but the chance it could work also makes it worth the effort to avoid court.
Some Tips to Remember in the Divorce Mediation Process
First, you need to find a professional mediator who can act as an impartial intermediary between divorcing parties. A mediator can help couples avoid litigation and court hearings that can be expensive and time-consuming.
Another tip is to come prepared to make decisions for yourself. The mediator is there to move things forward and help you come to an agreement, but being impartial, they do not offer guidance on a personal level. You are left to take in the information and decide how you wish to proceed.
Both parties have to decide to give mediation a chance if it is actually going to work. Not only must they both retain a willingness to compromise, but they must also actively participate in the mediation process to find an acceptable solution.
Successful divorce mediation requires transparency and good-faith negotiation. You must be willing to disclose all relevant information to the mediator and your spouse. It is imperative that you remain truthful and do not hide any assets for this process to be successful.
In addition to hiring a mediator, you will benefit from also engaging a divorce attorney. This attorney should accompany you to the mediator’s office, where each party will normally spend most of their time in separate rooms with the mediator going back and forth between. A lawyer can help you sort through the sometimes-dense vocabulary used in legal filings and proceedings.
Mediation does not eliminate contention or complexity. In his practice, Jed addresses all the issues in mediated divorces that are addressed in conventional litigation, including high net worth divorce, complex child support issues, and alimony. Remember that you cannot resolve all divorces through mediation, and some require an escalation to litigation and court appearances.
Divorce Mediation Checklist
To prepare for mediation both parties need to prepare a lot of information and documents. It can get confusing to shuffle through everything and bring exactly what you need for each session. It never hurts to have a checklist to follow when required to get so much stuff together. Here is a basic list:
- Both federal and state (where applicable) tax returns
- Pay stubs: at least the most recent 3
- Tax documents that show wages from the past year: W-2 or a 1099 form
- Valuation of all partnerships or other business interests
- Real estate property valuation
- Valuations of any vehicles, boats, and trailers
- All bank accounts, including savings, checking, money markets, and Certificates of Deposit
- Stocks, bonds, secured notes, mutual funds, and any other non-retirement investments
- Retirement accounts and pensions
- Life insurance, specifically whole life policies
- Property of significant value, such as jewelry, antiques, works of art, or coin collections
- Loans for real estate
- Credit cards and revolving credit
- Any other current loans and debt
Divorce Mediation and Child Custody
It’s important to know the child custody laws in Tennessee before entering into mediation during divorce proceedings. In fact, there are 15 factors in deciding child custody in the state, and those can be reviewed by clicking here. Once you understand how the laws work, you must make a few decisions specific to using a mediator to sort out child custody during a divorce or otherwise.
Have a clear idea of your desired outcome from the proceedings, including desired parenting time, specific needs in a parenting plan, and how much child support you might need or can expect by law. Also, realize that parenting time can often affect child support obligations and seek to understand how that might come into play.
What happens if divorce mediation fails?
If efforts towards a settlement through divorce mediation fail, you have to go to trial. Because mediation can stretch on for a long time, some Tennessee courts will set a deadline for it to end by setting a trial date. In other cases, it is up to the divorcing parties to ask for a date to be set for trial. Inevitably, the preparation for trial and the trial itself can be the most expensive part of your divorce. Be sure to work with an attorney who has the experience to help explore all options.
Whether you’re in search of an experienced divorce attorney or mediator for your divorce proceedings, McKeehan Law Group offers its services for you to hire. With more than a decade of combined experience, they understand how to provide compassionate and personalized service to help you through this difficult time in your life. Contact McKeehan Law Group online or call to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your situation.