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    November 18, 2023
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    Divorce, Mediation
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    Andrew Linden

The Crucial Role of a Mediator in Your Seattle Divorce Case

When you enlist the services of a seasoned mediator to help you navigate the divorce process in Seattle, you can trust that this professional will minimize conflicts, facilitate productive communication, and foster a cooperative environment.

The ending of a romantic partnership can be highly disruptive and destabilizing. As you start to untangle your life from that of your spouse, it’s natural to feel concerned and uncertain about what the future may hold. Your daily routines will look different from those you’ve experienced during the marriage, and you may need to explore housing and employment options to ensure that you can support yourself and your children once the marriage ends. Divorce requires considerable attention to detail, as you must make a series of decisions that carry tremendous weight in shaping your future. In addition to these logistical considerations, you may struggle with intense emotions as you mourn the ending of your relationship and your role as a romantic partner. As you begin to explore your options for obtaining a divorce, it’s helpful to recognize that there are several paths to help you achieve your desired outcome. For instance, mediation allows separating couples to negotiate the terms of their divorce in the presence of a neutral third party, known as the mediator. In contrast to traditional courtroom litigation, in which the parties argue their positions through their attorneys before a judge, mediation empowers the individual parties to work together to shape the terms of their divorce. Many couples who participate in mediation emerge from the process feeling content and satisfied with the outcome, as they have played a direct role in establishing the terms of their divorce. Let’s take a look at how the divorce mediation process works in Washington State and what role the mediator plays in helping you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse achieve an equitable outcome.

How Divorce Mediation Works in Seattle

First, it’s important to understand what the term “mediation” means. According to the Northwest Justice Project, mediation “is a way to settle a disagreement without having to go to court. In a mediation session, you can share your side of the story, how the disagreement affects you, and how you think you should settle it.” Although mediation is not always the best option for every conflict, private negotiation resolves the vast majority of family law cases —provided the parties approach the process with a willingness to compromise. In cases where mediation does not resolve the dispute, the parties may take the matter to arbitration or litigation. The primary difference between mediation and litigation is that the former encourages the parties to work together to resolve the dispute, while the latter leaves the decision in the hands of the judge. Additionally, everything filed at trial or before the court is public, and most parties prefer to keep their dirty laundry hidden from prying eyes whenever possible. In Washington, the divorce mediation process typically involves the following steps.

Selecting a Mediator

Once you and your spouse have committed to participating in mediation to obtain your divorce, you will need to find a mediator who will best serve your needs. It’s worth taking some time to meet with at least a few mediators to get a sense of their approach to this process. Make sure that you both feel comfortable in their presence and confident in their ability to help you work through disagreements as they arise. Consider asking them about their experience with divorce mediation and what you can expect from them as you move through this process.

Preparing For the Mediation Session

Once you have found a mediator and set a date for the session, you can expect to exchange any relevant material with the other party and the mediator in order to prepare for a productive session. For instance, if you and your spouse have articulated your divorce goals, ideal parenting plans, or visions for dividing up your marital property, the mediator will encourage you to share these documents with everyone involved in the mediation session before that date. Essentially, approaching the process as openly and transparently as possible will minimize the potential for confusion and disagreements once it begins.

Participating in the First Mediation Session

On the day of your scheduled mediation, both parties can expect to sit in separate rooms to facilitate a process known as shuttle diplomacy. During this process, the mediator will travel back and forth between the parties to help them understand and resolve their differences.

Depending on how willing the parties are to compromise and arrive at a solution, this process may conclude quickly or require an additional session. As the mediator works with each party, they will use any number of strategies to facilitate open communication and resolve disagreements as they arise. 

Reaching an Agreement

Once you and your spouse have reached a mutually agreeable solution, the mediator will draft a written settlement document that establishes the terms of the divorce or child custody settlement agreement. The mediator will then ask both parties to sign this agreement, which makes this document into a legally enforceable settlement. The court will then review this document and approve it, officially and legally dissolving your marriage and finalizing your divorce.

Understanding the Mediator’s Role in Washington State

Now that we’ve covered some of the basics of the mediation process, let’s take some time to define the role of the mediator throughout this process. Mediators come from a wide variety of experiences and backgrounds, and not all mediators come from the legal sector. Although this does not automatically disqualify them from overseeing your case, seeking out a mediator with sufficient training and experience in practicing divorce and family law will increase your chances of obtaining your desired outcome. A mediator who understands the nuances of the Seattle divorce process is more likely to provide you with the support and guidance you need to make informed decisions with greater certainty and confidence. Below are just a few of the responsibilities a divorce mediator takes on during this process.

Facilitating Open and Honest Communication

The primary role of a divorce mediator is to encourage the parties to communicate productively, honestly, and openly with one another. A highly qualified mediator understands how to facilitate such communication, inviting each party to articulate their concerns and goals and listen actively to the other party’s point of view. When a disagreement arises, the mediator will determine how to guide the parties through this dispute as smoothly and efficiently as possible. Mediators may apply a variety of communication strategies to move the negotiations forward.

Helping Parties Reach Agreements on Various Issues

The divorce process requires the parties to address several critical matters, including property division, spousal support, child custody, and child support. These topics can be contentious, and the mediator will help each party define their goals and focus on negotiating a fair solution that works best for all involved.

As obstacles arise, the mediator will determine how to encourage the parties to compromise on a workable solution. Depending on the nature of the dispute or disagreement, the mediator may suggest that the parties take some time to reflect and recommit to striving for their shared goal—walking away from the marriage on stable ground. 

Fostering a Cooperative Environment

It’s up to the mediator to set the tone for the process. Before and during the mediation session, the mediator may invite the parties to set their intentions and define their goals. As they move through each step of the process, the parties may be asked to revisit these goals and focus on the larger picture. Some of the most effective divorce mediators understand how to foster a collaborative and cooperative environment that empowers the parties to take an active role in shaping the outcome. Unlike a judge, the mediator does not influence the outcome. Instead, their primary concerns are to foster a spirit of collaboration between the parties, invite them to share their points of view, listen actively to one another, and work toward a mutually satisfactory resolution.

Learn More About Divorce Mediation Today

As you start to explore your divorce options in the Seattle area, it’s natural to picture a long, dramatic courtroom battle that drags on for months. However, not every divorce ends in litigation. As long as you and your spouse can agree to end your marriage in a respectful and productive manner, mediation may serve your needs and support your goals. What’s more, mediation allows you to take control of your future as you assume responsibility for shaping the terms of your divorce. Consider exploring whether mediation can help you achieve your desired outcome and give you the confidence you need to move forward into your life’s next chapter.

Even though divorce may be a daunting process, there are several strategies to help you move through it as smoothly and peacefully as possible. Working with an experienced and supportive mediator is the best way to ensure that you achieve your divorce goals and secure the solid foundation you need to begin your life’s next chapter. Reach out to the Hemmat Law Group today at (206) 682-5200 to learn more about how mediation can help you navigate the Seattle divorce process with grace and confidence.

We Help Good People in Bad Situations

The Hemmat Law Group (HLG) was founded in 1994 by Steven Amir Hemmat, a former DOJ Trial Attorney. We specialize in family law, supporting victims of the legal system.

Divorce and Separation

Hemmat Law Group help good people in bad situations.

Our divorce lawyers provide expert legal advice for all aspects of divorce, including child custody, support and property division. Contact us today.

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Article by Andrew Linden
Associate Attorney