Divorcing couples in West Virginia have a lot to consider as they work to untangle their lives together. Child custody, property division and spousal support are just a few of the issues couples must work through to create a comprehensive divorce settlement agreement. A change to the state’s family court system now requires divorcing couples to attend mediation if they cannot reach a working agreement on their own.
What is divorce mediation?
Divorce mediation is an informal process where parties work with a neutral third party to help them settle their differences and come up with mutually agreeable terms. The third-party mediator does not have the authority to make decisions on behalf of either party, as the parties must make all decisions regarding child custody and support, alimony and other matters. Parties may have their own legal counsel with them during the process, but the mediator does not act on the interest of either party.
There are some situations where divorce mediation is not required. Situations that involve domestic violence, child abuse or neglect, mental illness or substance abuse, among others, are typically exempt from having to go through the mediation process. A premeditation screening process can be used to determine whether parties must seek mediation.
An economical and efficient approach
Unlike traditional divorce litigation, mediation is typically far more efficient and cost-effective, and the process allows parties to maintain more control over the choices that will affect them and their families. If parties can resolve their conflicts and reach favorable agreements on their own, the court usually approves the agreement with little or no additional involvement. Although an informal process, mediation can still be complex, and the agreements created between the two parties will become binding upon approval by the court. This is why divorcing parties, particularly parents, in West Virginia should have an experienced family law attorney on hand throughout the process.