Every spouse considering a divorce in the state of Tennessee should know the basics of how mediation works. Though mediation is optional in Tennessee divorce law, as a practical matter it is required in almost all circumstances, especially in divorce cases involving child custody issues. In such cases, mediation is used to help parents resolve issues, have legal decision making authority, as well as helping to navigate parenting schedules while setting up visitation and determining custody.
Typically, by the time a divorce complaint has been filed, spouses have already separated. Given this, any communication between them can often be strained, oftentimes very difficult, and thus mediation is beneficial to all parties. During mediation, a neutral third-party mediator meets with the divorcing couple to help them dissolve their disputes without having to go through a court trial. This process is referred to as alternate dispute resolution (ADR), and is covered by Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 31. The mediator’s job is to try and help couples resolve some, and hopefully all, of their contested divorce issues. A mediator does not force the couple into agreement, instead, they help facilitate, along with involved counsel, both spouses in finding their own solutions regarding property division, splitting of debts incurred during marriage, and alimony.
Is mediation required in Tennessee?
Though it depends on the jurisdiction, typically yes. Depending on the circumstances, some judges may choose to forego the mediation requirement and will agree to hold a trial without it.
How does mediation work in Tennessee?
Mediation is most likely to take place at the mediators office. More often than not, a mediator is a lawyer who has had special training in mediation family law matters. The process will begin with the selection of a mediator, either by agreement with involved counsel or by the judge. The mediator’s loyalty is to the divorce settlement, not to individual parties, therefore it is not their responsibility to make decisions on the parties’ behalf. They are simply there to facilitate the process as a neutral. Mediation is typically at least a 3 hour affair, with the only successful outcome being that both spouses reach an agreement.
Every mediator has a unique approach to mediating disputes. A good mediator will help an agreement happen without imposing his or her own conditions on what they view to be as a good settlement. As a third party neutral, their main goal is to help divorcing spouses find common ground and resolve the contested issues in the case.
What is the cost of divorce mediation in Tennessee?
Each mediator handles mediation fees differently. That said, most mediators will ask each spouse to pay half of the mediation fees, with the vast majority of mediators charging between $100-$300 per hour. If the parties do not plan on splitting the cost of mediation, this needs to be determined prior to scheduling mediation. If the parties cannot come to an agreement about who will pay the mediator’s fees, one party may ask the court to order the other party to have these fees paid. Mediation works especially well in family law cases. Statistically, 60% to 85% of divorce and post-divorce mediations result in settlement. From a financial standpoint, it is much more cost effective to prepare for and participate in a mediation rather than prepare for and conduct a trial.
How long after mediation is divorce final in Tennessee?
Once the parties can come to an agreement, and reach a settlement, paperwork must be filed. Some of these include: the marital dissolution agreement, child support worksheets, permanent parenting plan, and proposed final decree of divorce. The paperwork needs to be finalized, executed, and presented to the court for approval. If the divorce waiting period has expired, the attorneys will seek to set the final hearing on the court’s next available divorce docket following a successful mediation. If the court approves the paperwork and the settlement terms submitted within, the court will likely grant the divorce at that court appearance.