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Can mediation spare heartache when going through a divorce?

Movie actors Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner recently announced their decision to divorce, as well as their intention of utilizing mediation. Readers might assume that mediation is a new trend in family law, similar to collaborative divorce and other approaches that have received recent media attention. However, the approach is actually an established part of family law. In fact, the attorneys in our law firm have utilized a variety of alternative approaches to family law litigation for years.

Specifically, our attorneys have helped many families avoid the emotional and financial upset of litigation through family law mediation. Like a divorce court, this professionally guided process can address very substantive issues, including alimony, child custody and support, property and debt division, and even post-divorce modification requests. 

The process relies on a mediator, who may meet with the parties together as well as separately. After hearing each party's concerns, the mediator may encourage a middle-ground approach that would be fair to both sides. Notably, each party may have an attorney present at these mediation sessions. An attorney can be a valuable asset, providing context for the mediator's suggestions, as well as a practical voice regarding how a court would likely view the mediator's proposal. 

Of course, fairness can be a subjective issue, and it is up to the parties to determine whether they will accept the mediator's proposal. In that regard, all communication during the mediation is deemed confidential and nonbinding. Some parties may wish to turn to family law litigation. However, playing one's chances in court may be a gamble, as the judge will ultimately impose a solution.

Source: Business Insider, "Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner announce divorce after 10 years of marriage," Aly Weisman, June 31, 2015

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