Divorce Mediation in Arizona
Divorce Mediation in Arizona
Are you searching for a divorce attorney to mediate your Arizona divorce or family law case? Our lead divorce attorney, Chris Hildebrand, provides divorce mediation services in Arizona family law cases. He has over twenty-three years of experience as both a divorce attorney and divorce mediator. Call today to schedule your Arizona divorce mediation session.
In the modern world, divorce or separation is no longer abnormal. Many might say that it is becoming the norm. As more divorces occur, the experience of those, who deal with it regularly also evolves. Laws change. “New” solutions become standard, and additional solutions are designed to address problems that become apparent as more and more go through the divorce process.
A divorce can become extremely contentious and that the more litigation involved, the more contentious the divorce process tends to become. Many who want to avoid this problem turn to divorce mediation. Reaching a divorce settlement through divorce mediation has benefits and drawbacks.
To discover if it is the best solution for you, consider both sides of the coin very carefully. Our Arizona divorce mediator, Chris Hildebrand, explains everything you need to know about divorce mediation.
Divorce Mediation in Arizona | Mediation vs. Divorce Court
Time: Mediation allows you to determine the schedule and the issues at designated times. Proceeding with a divorce through court can be lengthy and time-consuming.
Control: Mediation means you are directly involved in designing the solutions and coming to the decisions you want. You can even try out ideas and solutions before signing the final divorce decree. In a divorce court, you must adhere to the ruling of the judge, and outcomes can be unpredictable.
Deliberation Time: Mediation allows you to dictate how much time you spend on each issue. In a divorce court, judges need to adhere to a strict schedule and often end up with a short amount of time to consider the details of your case. In some instances, less than 5 minutes. You may only get a brief period to testify.
Costs of Divorce: Frequent scheduling conflicts between the Divorce Court and litigants are just one of the many ways in which the costs of divorce can escalate. Mediation allows you to have more control over the cost and typically ends up totaling about 1/10 to 1/3 the cost associated with the typical divorce case that goes through the Court.
Confidentiality: Mediation is confidential while Court proceedings are a matter of public record. Depending on your situation, this can be a major concern.
The Arizona Court of Appeals in the Grubaugh vs. Hon. Blomo case confirmed statements made in mediation are confidential. You can only waive the confidentiality of statements made in mediation with the consent of both parties. One party may not breach that confidentiality without the agreement of the other party. If you need to discuss the benefits and drawbacks of Arizona divorce mediation or Arizona Divorce Court in further detail, please get in touch with us at Hildebrand Law, PC as soon as possible.
Divorce Mediation Tips
Now that you know the benefits of divorce mediation, we want to give you tips increasing the likelihood your negotiation will be successful. First, you need to find a good Arizona divorce mediator.
A good mediator is a master listener. They give all their attention and focus on the person speaking. A good mediator will maintain good eye contact when you are talking to them. They will ask intelligent questions to understand what you want fully.
The mediator will not allow distractions to interfere with your mediation. Instead, a good divorce mediator focuses on you and what is important to you.
A good mediator will respond with insightful questions and clarifications as necessary to ensure he or she understands what you are conveying to him or her. A good mediator will genuinely care about your most significant concerns. A good mediator will validate your legitimate interests and mitigate any unreasonable positions you may be taking and are unlikely to be granted by a judge.
A good divorce mediator must also bring their knowledge of divorce and family law to the table to provide legal advice and solutions to roadblocks that occur during the mediation process.
The Arizona Divorce Mediation Process
Mediation is a process designed to bring parties together to help resolve disagreements. A good mediator typically addresses the following types of issues in mediation:
- Child Custody Issues;
- Parenting Time Issues;
- Child Support Issues;
- Spousal Support Issues;
- Division of Property and Debt Issues;
The mediator only has the authority to persuade the parties to reach a mutually agreeable settlement of the issues in their case. The mediator does not have the power to force the parties into an agreement, nor does he or she have the authority to make rulings on the issues.
The Arizona divorce mediation process typically begins with the two sides meeting with a neutral mediator to identify the issues. Sometimes the parties may agree to meet separately with the mediator if they prefer.
The mediator is neutral and does not represent either party but, instead, facilitates settlement discussions between the parties and provides practical solutions to resolve disputes. Both sides discuss their proposals to address the issues.
A qualified mediator with extensive experience in divorce and related family law cases is equipped to provide much-needed guidance in assisting two parties in reaching fair and equitable agreements in all family law related matters.
Many people who use a qualified and experienced mediator settle all of their issues. Using a trained divorce mediator, which may reduce the legal fees they will pay if they litigated their disagreements. As a general rule, statements made by the parties are protected from use at trial by the Arizona Rules of Evidence. That rule of exclusion for statements made in mediation is intended to allow the parties to openly discuss the issues in mediation in hopes of opening communication to resolve their problems.
If you reach an agreement during mediation, that agreement will only be binding on the parties if the agreement is reduced to a written settlement agreement and signed by both sides. Such written and signed agreements are presumed to be binding on the parties, according to Rule 69 of the Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure.
However, the agreement may subsequently be challenged by either party, according to Arizona Revised Statute Section 25-317, on several grounds. The following are some of the reasons someone may contest an agreement reached in mediation:
- A person claims they were under duress or coercion to reach the agreement;
- A person claims they were not competent to agree due to some disability;
- A person may claim the division of assets or debts is unfair or not fair and equitable;
- A person may claim child custody agreements do not protect the best interests of the parties’ children;
Lastly, the court may reject the agreement if the judge independently determines provisions relating to the children are not in the best interests of the children; although that rarely occurs.
Court Approved Divorce Mediation in Arizona
Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is an umbrella term for a range of settlement methods, both private and through the Court, designed to help parties resolve their conflicts. One such program is a Family Court Settlement Conference. The parties and their attorneys meet with a judicial officer who mediates disputes between the parents.
The judicial officer selects a Judge Pro Tempore to assign to your mediation. The court then schedules a date for your mediation.
Another court program in Maricopa County includes Mediation through Conciliation Services. This is a more narrow dispute resolution process. A Conciliation Services mediation only covers child custody and parenting time issues.
This process is a court-approved Mediator selected through Conciliation Services, and only the parties are allowed to attend. The parties’ respective attorneys are not permitted to participate, and are not, therefore, directly involved in this process. Individuals are encouraged to consult with their respective attorneys to prepare for this process. There is a nominal court fee for this process.
Disadvantages of Using a Court Appointed Mediator in Arizona
A Family Court Settlement Conference through the court’s ADR process is free, and through Conciliation Services, the cost is minimal. The disadvantages of a Family Court Settlement Conference is you have no control over who is assigned to your case. You are, therefore, gambling as to whether the Judge Pro Tempore or Mediator assigned to your case is competent in all areas of family law.
If the appointed Judge Pro Tempore or Mediator is not competent, you may waste a significant amount of time and money attending that settlement conference. We have experienced this several times.
Family Court Settlement Conferences scheduled through ADR are typically set out several months from the time the court schedules the conference. As a result, you may incur additional months of potentially costly litigation during the ensuing time.
The other disadvantage is not all mediators, or Judge Pro Tempore’s are equally skilled at conflict resolution. An unskilled mediator may impede your ability to settle your case. Also, a mediator or Judge Pro Tempore who lacks substantial experience in family law may not know how a judge may rule on any particular issue. Lastly, the two hours of mediation provided is rarely sufficient time to resolve all of the issues in your case.
Advantages of Using a Private Divorce Mediator
A private method of Alternative Dispute Resolution is private Mediation. Private divorce mediation is a process involving both parties and if represented by counsel, each parties’ attorney. The parties and their attorneys appear before a neutral Arizona divorce mediator who is typically, but not always, a licensed Arizona attorney. The private mediator will charge the parties for their time spent mediating the case. There are several ways you may participate in private Mediation.
We very often choose to use a private mediator for our clients. The advantage of this approach is we ensure we choose an attorney who is well versed in Arizona divorce and family law issues. We prefer mediators who have demonstrated tremendous skill in successfully mediating cases based on our prior experiences with that mediator.
We select a mediator who has experience in divorce and family law cases to be in a position to provide an educated opinion regarding how a judge may rule on any particular issue.
Also, we may schedule the mediation for any length of time needed, whether that be two hours or all day. Lastly, most private mediators can immediately schedule the mediation, which may save several months of costly litigation spent waiting for court-ordered mediation. The disadvantage of hiring a private mediator is that you have to pay for his or her services. However, we find the advantage of hiring a private mediator outweighs the cost of private mediation.
Choose a Qualified Arizona Divorce Mediator
Our founder, Chris Hildebrand, has practiced family law for twenty years. He has successfully conducted many divorce mediations. In one such mediation, the two family law attorneys met with Chris before the mediation. They informed Chris the parties were too far apart and neither party was willing to move from their entrenched positions. Chris settled every issue between the parties in one day of mediation.
Both sides, as well as their attorneys, were pleased with the outcome.
So, how to choose the best Arizona divorce mediator for your case? You need to locate an attorney who has three primary traits:
- Your mediator must have a thorough understanding of divorce and family law. He or she must have the significant trial experience to be able to advise the parties of the likely outcomes if the case proceeds to trial;
- Your mediator needs to be empathetic to the issues each party has a strong emotional or financial concern about, yet still, be strong in his or her approach to mediation;
- Your mediator also should have a high level of what is referred to in the psychological field as emotional intelligence.
If you have not read about the studies and research on emotional intelligence, I would strongly recommend you do. It is as important, if not more so than intellect; particularly when an attorney is acting in the role of a mediator.
Be Prepared for Your Divorce Mediation
You must prepare before you attend a divorce mediation. You need to be able to clearly and concisely communicate your position on the various issues, the law that applies to each topic, and the facts that support your position. Your goal is to provide a well thought and reasonable plan for how you propose to resolve the case.
You also need to prepare convincing arguments about why your spouse’s proposal to resolve the issues is wrong. You should be prepared to demonstrate your spouse is either misinterpreting the law or misapplying the law in your case.
We prepare a very detailed written Mediation Memorandum setting forth all of our client’s positions, the laws supporting each position, and the facts supporting our proposal for resolving the case. You may want to provide the mediator with the following list of documents before you attend mediation:
- A Mediation Memorandum containing a list of the issues and your position on the issues;
- A copy of all sworn witness affidavits;
- All financial documents;
- Copies of all letters and emails between the parties and their counsel;
- Copies of police reports, if any exist;
- Copies of children’s educational records;
- Copies of medical records;
- Anything else that may prove our case.
Our goal is to win the mediator over before we ever step foot in the mediator’s office. We have found it to be an essential tool in receiving excellent outcomes in our clients’ mediations.
Chris Hildebrand wrote this article about divorce mediation in Arizona to ensure everyone has access to information about divorce mediation in Arizona. Chris is a divorce and child custody attorney at Hildebrand Law, PC. He has over 24 years of Arizona family law experience and has received multiple awards, including US News and World Report “Top Arizona Divorce Attorneys,” Phoenix Magazine “Top Divorce Law Firms,” and Arizona Foothills Magazine “Best of the Valley” award. The procedures he uses to get his clients through a divorce further our principles of honesty and integrity. Chris and his staff care about what their clients are going through in a divorce.
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