If you are preparing to divorce in Oklahoma City, OK, you have options aside from litigation for completing this challenging process. Alternative dispute resolution can allow a divorcing couple to end their marriage more seamlessly with less time and expense invested in the process. Divorce mediation is the most commonly chosen form of alternative dispute resolution in Oklahoma, and it’s vital to understand this process and determine whether it could work for your divorce. Unfortunately, while divorce mediation is incredibly effective and commonly praised for the efficiency and peace of mind it can provide, it does not work out for every divorcing couple.

If you reach an impasse with your mediation sessions or believe that mediation will not work for your situation, it’s vital to consult your Oklahoma City divorce lawyer to determine the best approach to the situation. For example, you could use mediation to settle part of your divorce before moving to litigation, or you may need to resolve some outstanding issues once you have completed as much as you can through mediation. Whatever your case entails, your attorney should be able to help you understand your best available options in these situations.

Take Mediation as Far as You Can

Ultimately, divorce mediation serves the best interests of both divorcing spouses, even when they do not want to negotiate. Once they realize the practical advantages that mediation offers, such as saving time and money on the divorce process, divorcing spouses should do their best to put aside personal issues and focus on completing the divorce as efficiently as possible.

During mediation, the divorcing spouses and their respective attorneys meet to discuss mutually agreeable terms for the divorce. Then, they will work through each of their issues one by one under the guidance of a mediator. The mediator is there to keep the conversation focused, clarify any legal statutes about the negotiation at hand, and assist the couple in drafting their divorce agreement. You and your spouse will have joint sessions with the mediator and your respective attorneys, and the mediator will also likely arrange one-on-one sessions with both sides of the divorce.

Eventually, the couple may reach a point where they cannot come to terms. If this occurs, it’s possible to set this issue aside for the time being and focus on other aspects of the divorce. Taking this approach allows the divorcing spouses to settle as much as possible with mediation, and any remaining issues can be taken to an Oklahoma City family court judge for a ruling. In some cases, this is unavoidable. For example, it is impossible to reach a firm conclusion on child custody in mediation because the state must ensure the custody determination suits the best interests of the children it will affect. You and your spouse can make your preferences for custody clear during mediation and even propose a custody agreement, but a judge will still need to approve it.

What Happens After Mediation?

If you have taken the mediation process as far as you can in your Oklahoma City divorce, the next step in completing the dissolution process is to bring your divorce case to a family court judge. Then, litigation begins, and the length of the litigation process generally depends on how much you and your spouse settled during mediation. If you were unable to reach a mutual agreement on any aspects of your divorce, you could expect a standard divorce trial to unfold, and the judge will have the final say on these lingering issues.

Litigation following mediation is also the time to raise any concerns about some aspects of your mediation sessions. For example, if you believe your spouse was untruthful in their financial disclosure or if you discover information that should have been examined in mediation, the litigation phase can provide the opportunity for the judge to review these issues and deliver a ruling.

What Happens If My Spouse Refuses Mediation?

Mediation is only an option for your Oklahoma City divorce if your spouse is willing to try it. If they are entirely unwilling to negotiate and demand a trial, divorce litigation may be unavoidable for the two of you. This will cause problems for them just as much as it will for you, as they will also need to bear the expense and stress of the litigation process. Unfortunately, some divorcing spouses think that “having their day in court” will mean a superior outcome for them, only for them to discover that mediation could have provided a much more agreeable outcome.

When you mediate your divorce, you have much more control over the outcome. You can keep your negotiations private and reduce the chance that you will need to revisit your divorce order in the future. In litigation, the judge has the final say on every aspect of your divorce. They may not see things your way, no matter how rational and reasonable you believe you are. All divorcing spouses in Oklahoma should understand the benefits of mediation and strive to take advantage of them to the fullest whenever possible.

How Can an Attorney Help?

If your spouse is entirely unwilling to cooperate with the mediation process, your attorney can potentially assist with the situation by acting as your proxy. For example, suppose you and your spouse fight about everything and cannot have a civil negotiation in mediation. In that case, it’s still possible to complete mediation by having your respective attorneys effectively stand in for you. Your attorneys can relay messages between you, provide responses to each phase of negotiations, and keep each of you informed about the progress of your mediation. While this will take much longer than standard mediation, it is a viable option for divorcing couples who have trouble with face-to-face negotiations or when a divorce arises from deeply personal issues.

If you are facing a messy divorce and are unsure whether mediation is a viable option in your situation, it’s vital to consult an experienced Oklahoma City, OK, divorce attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney can help you determine the best approach to your divorce and help you take full advantage of divorce mediation to the extent which your situation allows.