There are different ways you can get divorced, including going through mediation, doing a DIY divorce or uncontested divorce, using Collaborative Law or going through the divorce litigation process. No matter what process you choose, you will still address all of the same issues. When you are choosing a divorce process you are really deciding how you want to go through your divorce.
Below is an outline of a typical divorce mediation process. Each of these steps may not apply in every case and/or they may not go exactly in this order. However, this is the basic process that will apply in most situations:
Step 1 – Initial Information Gathering. Every divorce, no matter which process you choose, requires the exchange of at least some information. The information can be exchanged between the parties either before mediation or at mediation. Don’t worry about gathering everything before your first meeting – Forrest will help you identify what additional information you need at your appointment.
Step 2 – First Appointment. The first appointment can either be a consultation or an actual mediation appointment. A mediation consultation is an opportunity to learn more about mediation and whether it is the right fit for your situation. Sometimes people already know they want to mediate so they will begin with a two hour mediation appointment.
At the first meeting, whether it is a consultation or mediation appointment, we will begin by discussing your background and so Forrest can better understand your situation (e.g, how long have you been married, what do you do for work, etc.). You do not need to discuss why you are getting a divorce or separation unless you feel like that is helpful for Forrest to understand or for you to be able to articulate. Forrest will also ask about why you chose the mediation process and what is important to you as part of the divorce process.
Each divorce or separation, regardless of how long it takes, needs to address all of the same issues. We always begin by discussing child-related issues first because those are the most important; then we discuss assets and liabilities because we need to know who is living where and who is receiving which assets and paying which bills; then we discuss support because we need to know the first two things (child-related issues and assets) before we can meaningfully discuss support. Every judgment needs to address support even if no support is awarded.
Sometimes people have reached their own agreements before mediation. This is referred to as “Kitchen Table Mediation.” Kitchen table mediations usually just take one appointment. If this applies to you, you can skip down to Step 5, Document Drafting.
Step 3 – Homework. In between appointments there is typically some type of “homework” that you will need to do. Forrest will explain all of the homework and will send you a summary email after your session which describes any agreements that were reached and reminds you of the homework items that were assigned. This could include signing up for the parent education class, obtaining recent statements of accounts, working on budgets or getting a home appraised. In most cases you will work on gathering additional information that gets identified at the first mediation appointment.
Step 4 – Additional Appointments. Additional appointments are usually scheduled 2-3 weeks apart. The total number of meetings depends on 1) The number and complexity of issues, and 2) How well the two of you can work together. In situations where we are dealing with all issues (i.e., kids, property and support), it is not unusual to need a total of 3-4 meetings. If your situation is very complex or if we are having a hard time reaching agreements, you may need more meetings than this; if you have already reached some of your own agreements and/or you work very well together, you may need fewer meetings.
Step 5 – Document Drafting. Once a complete agreement is reached Forrest can draft all of the documents for you. It usually takes about a week to prepare the first draft of the documents. Forrest sends the documents to you using a cloud-based case management system called Clio. You will be prompted to login to the system to download the documents.
You are strongly encouraged to review the documents with a lawyer (although you are not required to do so). You or your lawyer will likely have at least some feedback on the documents. The best way to provide feedback on the documents is for both participants to meet outside of mediation, discuss their changes or comments and then email Forrest a list of the agreed-upon changes. If a minor disagreement comes up during this process we can schedule a 3-way phone call to discuss the issue. If a major disagreement comes up during the review process (which is rare) you may need to schedule a follow-up mediation appointment.
Forrest will update the documents after receiving your list of changes. He will send the updated documents to you one more time for your review. Once both participants are satisfied with the draft of the documents we will schedule a document signing appointment. The document signing appointment (and all appointments, for that matter) can be scheduled online using our online scheduling system.
Step 6 – Signing and Filing. Signing appointments are scheduled for 30 minutes. You can sign the documents together or separately. Forrest likes to take some time to answer any questions you may have and to discuss what happens next in the process. He will also spend a few minutes talking about post-judgment issues and modification scenarios.
After the documents have been signed Forrest will file them on your behalf. Once the documents are submitted the court (in certain counties) will mail something called a “Notice of Dismissal Date.” This does not apply to you since all of your documents were submitted all at once. The court usually takes 2-3 weeks to review and sign your judgment.
Once the judgment is signed the court will automatically mail you something called a “Notice of Entry of Judgment.” This is usually 1-2 pages long and has the name of the county at the top. It will say that a judgment has been entered in your case but it does not say that you are divorced. If you receive this it means that you are divorced. The court does not automatically mail you a judgment. This is something that has to be specifically requested and Forrest will do this on your behalf. In counties that have converted to eFiling Forrest will be able to download a copy of your judgment and email it to you.
Step 7 – Post-Judgment. There are a number of different things that may need to happen after your judgment has been signed. Here is an article about things to be aware of post-judgment issues as well an article on modification scenarios.
The total length of time that your case takes really depends on the number of meetings you need (which depends on the number and complexity of issues and how well the two of you work together). It is possible to be completely done, start to finish, in as little as 6-8 weeks if you only need one meeting (i.e., in a Kitchen Table Mediation). For each additional meeting you can expect to add 2-3 weeks of time.
Next: Read about The Benefits of Mediation.