If you are ready to file for divorce in Springfield, MO, it is natural to contend with a strong mix of emotions as you brace yourself for the legal proceedings ahead. Unfortunately, the often-lengthy divorce process can cause such feelings to intensify. Fortunately, there is a solution. Divorce mediation has become the preferred alternative to conventional dissolution of marriage proceedings in the US.
When you are unsure how to approach your divorce case, it is worth taking time to investigate the potential benefits of collaborative divorce mediation. If you and your spouse are willing to mediate, you can save significant amounts of time and money. You may also reach a more personalized and agreeable result than expected from litigation.
Find the Right Attorney
One common misconception about divorce mediation is that it allows you to avoid the cost of hiring an attorney. While it is technically possible to represent your own interests in a divorce case, doing so puts you at an extreme disadvantage — especially if your spouse hired their own lawyer. The mediator handling your divorce cannot provide you with legal advice and can only answer questions related to legal statutes and the process surrounding mediation. If you do not hire an attorney, you have no one looking out for your interests as your case proceeds.
An experienced Springfield, MO divorce lawyer is a fantastic asset if you are unsure about what to expect in your divorce case. Depending on how agreeable you and your spouse are throughout the process, you may be able to settle some or all your divorce issues privately through mediation. Hiring an attorney is the best way to ensure your case proceeds in a way that aligns with your best interests. Your attorney can also help you make informed decisions as your case unfolds.
Locate a Mediator
Many attorneys provide legal representation to clients approaching the divorce mediation process. Similarly, most mediators are either family law experts or practicing attorneys. If you and your spouse are willing to mediate your divorce, it is important to find a mediator who does not have any potential conflicts of interest presiding over your case.
Remember, the mediator cannot provide you with legal advice. Their job is to facilitate your negotiations and assist in the drafting of your divorce order. Your attorney will be able to answer questions and ensure your divorce order is legal and in alignment with your interests.
Perform Detailed Evidence Gathering
Financial disclosure is one of the most pivotal components of a divorce case. It is vital to ensure your financial disclosure is complete and accurate to avoid serious legal complications and even criminal penalties in the future. Your attorney can help you take the right approach to your financial disclosure requirements, including locating the documentation you need to ensure your case proceeds as smoothly as possible.
Consult with your attorney to determine the breadth of the financial investigation you must complete for the divorce mediation process. The more documentation you have, the stronger your negotiation position will be. Due diligence is also one of the best ways to catch financial discrepancies like hidden assets.
Be Constructive and Civil With Your Spouse
Divorce can easily dredge up many strong, negative emotions. Even if you and your spouse decided to divorce on mutual terms, the process of starting your divorce can generate negative emotions quickly. Do your best to separate your personal issues with your spouse from your practical responsibility to your future interests. Taking full advantage of the divorce mediation process is an effective way to save a tremendous amount of time and money, but only if you and your spouse are willing to participate in constructive negotiation.
Consult Expert Witnesses
As you proceed through your mediation sessions, you should be aware that your attorney may advise consulting an expert or two to support your negotiation position. Your Springfield, MO divorce attorney can coordinate expert witness testimony to support your case if necessary. Expert witnesses such as medical professionals, social workers, forensic accountants, economic advisors, and others can all lend valuable insights to your case. In the event your case proceeds to litigation, expert witnesses may testify on your behalf and provide the court with their professional opinions on various elements of your divorce.
Prepare for Extensive Research
Mediation can be a streamlined and effective alternative to divorce litigation, but only if you are willing to do the necessary research to support your position. In addition to your financial disclosure statement and related records, you may also need to produce documentation such as proof of ownership of separate property. Your Springfield, MO divorce attorney can help you prepare to research the legal statutes that become relevant as your case enters mediation.
Court Approval for Child Custody
Divorcing parents who are preparing for divorce mediation should know that some issues require the court’s review and approval. You cannot mediate a custody or support agreement for your children privately. The Missouri family court system has a legal duty to ensure the custody and support agreement you reach aligns with your children’s best interests.
You and your spouse can outline a parenting plan that includes both of your preferences and expectations in terms of child custody and support. However, the decision will not become final during mediation. A judge will need to review the plan before issuing the divorce decree. While it is possible that you might negotiate a legally acceptable parenting plan, the judge may require modifications before approval.
Consult a Springfield, MO Divorce Lawyer
Divorce is difficult for anyone, especially when the process results in lengthy litigation proceedings. Choosing to enter mediation before making the final decision to pursue a divorce trial can help you avoid the unnecessary strain such proceedings can cause. However, mediation must be approached with care and legal guidance.
Even couples that are willing to mediate civilly will experience many different challenges as they undergo the divorce mediation process. One of the best things you can do to prepare for divorce mediation is to hire an experienced attorney. Your Springfield, MO divorce lawyer will answer important mediation questions, guide you through the mediation process and help you approach the situation with more confidence.