What is Divorce Mediation?

Mediation in a Michigan Divorce is a process where both parties decide to choose a mediator and the mediator recommends a settlement the mediator believes fair.  A mediator is usually an attorney who has taken special training and the Divorce Court has determined that they are qualified to mediate. The goal of the mediator is to get the parties to agree on a settlement.  The settlement will divide the property, the debts in the marriage, and decide issues of custody and child support if the parties have children.

Mediators have no power to actually decide the outcome of a divorce.  They are not a judge and cannot order property and debt division or child custody, support, and parenting time.  They can only recommend a settlement and the parties can choose to accept or reject it.

There is no such thing as going to a mediator instead of filing for divorce.  The mediator cannot divorce you.

Mediation is usually required in any Michigan divorce if the parties cannot reach a settlement.  Because it is several thousands of dollars to pay a mediator (both parties pay half) it gives the parties an incentive to settle.  It makes sense that both parties who do not want to share the cost of a mediator so their attorneys will negotiate for a settlement and the parties will be more reasonable.

Sometimes divorcing couples go to a mediator before filing the divorce thinking they will reach a settlement.  As the thinking goes they will take the settlement along with a summons and complaint to the Divorce Court and in a single hearing at the court have the settlement entered and the divorce completed.

This sounds like a good inexpensive way to get divorced.  But in our experience it does not work that way in reality.  There are many reasons for this.  First the mediator and the parties are just beginning the case.  There has been no discovery of assets which is done in a divorce case.  So the mediator is paid to do the discovery.  The whole process is very expensive and usually we see it unsuccessful. The parties don’t agree and they have to file for divorce (which they have to even if they agreed to settle anyway) and the process of mediation is wasted.

The way to get divorce in Michigan is to hire an experienced attorney who will represent you.  That attorney will reach out to the other party’s attorney and discover assets.  They will also get you temporary orders if they are necessary (temporary orders will be covered in our next blog).  Your attorney will negotiate a settlement and avoid you the cost of mediation.

However not all cases can settle in mediation or before mediation.  If you and your attorney cannot get the other side to agree you will have to go through mediation and to trial.  Call us to get the best representation you can.