Oklahoma and Arkansas Mediation Services
Helping Spouses and Parents With Private Mediation
Divorce can be lengthy, contentious, and expensive—but it doesn’t always have to be. If you and your soon-to-be-ex are able to remain respectful and can agree to act in good faith, you may be able to end your marriage with a settlement agreement or by going through mediation, instead of battling it out in court.
Think you and your spouse may be ideal candidates for a settlement agreement or mediation? Kathleen Egan is certified by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers to mediate family law disputes.
You don’t need to go through the divorce mediation process alone. Contact Bundy Law to learn about our mediation services.
What Is Mediation?
Mediation is a popular form of alternative dispute resolution that allows couples to negotiate the terms of their divorce settlement with the assistance of their respective attorneys and a neutral third party, known as a mediator. During the mediation process, the mediator serves as a facilitator, helping divorcing couples reach their own decisions regarding asset and debt division, child custody and support, spousal support and alimony, and other important matters. In Arkansas and in Oklahoma, participation in mediation may be voluntary or ordered by the court.
Mediation is Private
There are special rules protecting settlement negotiations, offers and attempts to settle disputes. Compromise negotiations and offers are not admissible in court. This encourages people to negotiate and make settlement offers without fear that their offers will be used against them in the event that negotiations are unsuccessful. Mediation falls under the rules about settlement negotiation, which means that anything and everything that is said in mediation is private. Nothing either party says in mediation may be used against that person in court. Neither side may ask the mediator to appear in court to discuss what happened in mediation.
Benefits of Divorce and Child Custody Mediation
Mediation offers numerous advantages over traditional divorce litigation. Some of the key benefits of mediation include:
- Speed. Finalizing a divorce through mediation takes a fraction of the time it takes to finalize a divorce through litigation.
- Cost. Mediation is far less expensive than a series of hearings or a court trial.
- Privacy. Unlike divorce litigation documents, which are public records, mediation is private and confidential.
- Control. Mediation gives divorcing spouses control of the dissolution of marriage process, rather than the court.
- Personalized decisions. Court decisions are often made based on impersonal state laws, whereas mediation allows couples to make their own decisions regarding their divorce.
- Legal counsel. Though mediation isn’t litigation, divorcing spouses who are going through mediation can still take advantage of legal advice from their attorneys.
- Improved communication. The mediation process can serve to strengthen communication between spouses, potentially helping them avoid conflicts in the future.
Understanding the Mediation Process
If you and your soon-to-be-ex are considering mediation, knowing what to expect may help to alleviate any anxiety either of you may have about the process. Here’s a brief overview of what happens in a typical divorce mediation, as well as tips to help you get through it:
- The mediator will ask for background information on your marriage, your family, and related issues. Some mediators take this information by phone prior to mediation, while others prefer to do so during the first session.
- During mediation sessions, spouses—and their respective attorneys—are usually in separate rooms, with the mediator going back and forth between them. Some mediators prefer to conduct sessions with everyone in the same room; however, that may not be appropriate in all situations.
- Though the mediator, you and your spouse will discuss all the terms of your divorce, including property division, alimony, and child custody and support, with each side exchanging offers throughout the negotiations until an agreement is reached. This can take some time—and if mediation is taking place in separate rooms, you may want to bring something to keep yourself busy during the downtime.
- When you’ve agreed on the terms, the mediator will draft a settlement agreement for you and your spouse to execute and submit to the court for approval.
- Once the settlement agreement is approved by a judge, the terms are final and the agreement is enforceable.
Mediation Can Be Beneficial in Every Case
Mediation is a safe place because it is private and confidential. The ideal outcome of mediation is the complete resolution and settlement of all claims between the participants. However, even when that does not happen, the outcome may still be positive. Sometimes partial agreements can be reached at mediation. Even if no agreements are reached, often more information is learned at mediation about the other side’s theories and motives that can result in either settlement after mediation or a successful trial.
Mediation can be a part of a shift of the risk of trial — by making aggressive settlement offers, you can make an opponent who acts as if they have nothing to lose at trial feel like they have something to lose — if they leave your good offer on the table at mediation. Parties to a lawsuit are sometimes able to agree to things that a judge or jury could not order if a case goes to trial. Sometimes mediation offers may include proposals that are outside of the realm of what a judge or jury could do in the case, and those proposals can induce or incentive settlement.
How We Approach Mediation for Our Clients
Mediation fits into our process for handling cases. In most cases, mediation is scheduled after discovery is complete and after written settlement offers are exchanged. There are many quality mediators. With few exceptions, we generally agree to use the mediator that the other side is willing to use, as we want the other side to feel good about going to mediation and to have ownership in any settlement that is reached. Although mediation is very different from trial, we approach mediation in a similar way to trial. Like trial judges, mediators only know what they’re told by each side. We work to provide the mediator with important information and evidence about the case in advance before the mediation session. If we have already made a written settlement offer to the other side, we share the written settlement offer with the mediator before the mediation session.
Many mediation attorneys do not take the time to send the mediator any information. We have an advantage in the mediation session because the mediator already has important information from us about our position and why our position is reasonable. The way we approach mediation impacts how mediation works. Each side will be in different rooms. In our mediations, the mediator spends a significantly greater amount of time in the other room than the mediator spends in our room. This is because we have already shaped the mediation by sending advance information, so the mediator spends most of the time in the other room working on the other side for settlement. Our approach to mediation often facilitates successful mediation outcomes for our clients.
The Role of the Mediator
As an impartial third party, the mediator plays a crucial role in facilitating communication and negotiation between parties in a dispute. At Bundy Law Office, our mediators are trained and experienced in helping clients navigate complex and emotionally charged situations to reach mutually beneficial solutions.
Some of the key responsibilities of the mediator include:
- Creating a safe and respectful environment for all parties to express their concerns and needs
- Clarifying issues and identifying areas of common ground
- Encouraging creative solutions and brainstorming options
- Helping parties understand the potential consequences of different settlement options
- Documenting the terms of the agreement in a clear and concise manner
Our mediation process is designed to empower clients to make informed decisions and take ownership of the outcome. By choosing mediation, you can avoid the expense, stress, and uncertainty of going to court, while still achieving a fair and lasting resolution.
Who Should Attend Mediation?
Each litigant, or party to the dispute, should attend mediation. Many mediations take place virtually, by Zoom or on other video platforms. If the mediation is not in-person, every participant should take steps to ensure that they have a stable internet connect in a place with no distractions where they can hear and discuss confidential matters.
In some domestic matters, it Is common for one or both sides to ask their new significant other to attend mediation. Sometimes this can be upsetting to former spouses or co-parents. However, in some circumstances it can be beneficial to have new partners or spouses attend mediation, if everyone consents. If a new partner has influence, they can help the other party in a support capacity and take ownership of any agreement reached. This can decrease the likelihood of the other side trying to back out of an agreement after mediation. Of course, if a new partner is disruptive or obstructive to the negotiation process, they should not be permitted to participate. There are various factors for deciding whether to oppose or agree to a new significant other attending a session, including the recency of separation between the litigants, any history of domestic violence or substance abuse by the opposing party or their new partner, and the current relationship status of each party to the lawsuit.
Mediated Settlement Agreements
If you and your soon-to-be-ex are amicable and know exactly what you want out of the divorce, you may be able to reach an equitable settlement agreement without going through mediation. We can help you draft a settlement agreement to submit to the court.
Contact Us to Learn More About Divorce Mediation and Settlement Agreements in Oklahoma and Arkansas
At Bundy Law, our skilled mediation attorneys have helped countless clients in northeastern Oklahoma and in northwestern Arkansas negotiate successful outcomes and achieve their goals. We may be able to help you, too.
Considering mediation? Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a private consultation.