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Can mediation hurt my divorce case in any way?

Divorce is an adversarial process, and it isn't uncommon for people to feel especially distrustful of everything that happens. That can make it hard to consider mediation as an alternative, since mediation requires a certain amount of openness and trust to work.

If there are any big issues that have to be resolved, like spousal support, child support and custody, you may be afraid of making a serious mistake that will haunt you for the rest of your life.

Try to relax. Divorce mediation doesn't present any risks to your case if you're unable to work out some major issues and still have to go to trial. It may help to keep certain facts in mind:

1. Mediation is not a one-shot process. Unlike a divorce hearing, issues don't have to be decided immediately. It isn't uncommon for mediation to take place over several short meetings. You and your spouse may spend a couple of hours in mediation and then take a break for a few days to think over the issues before going back into mediation.

2. Tentative decisions can't be used against you. For example, imagine that you go to mediation and make an agreement about how much visitation you'll have with the children. Later, you realize that your decision doesn't sit well with you. You feel like it is unfair. While it might not make your spouse happy at the next mediation meeting that you've changed your mind, you aren't bound by that tentative agreement.

3. Nothing you reveal in mediation is going to hurt you if you have to go to court. In fact, you're required to fully disclose any important information, like your financial holdings and debts, whether you go to mediation or go to court.

4. Going to court won't help right any wrongs. A lot of people who have been betrayed or deceived by a spouse mistakenly believe that they'll get some sort of vindication in court -- that the judge will punish the errant spouse for his or her bad behavior. That's not likely to happen. With the advent of no-fault divorce, things like spousal infidelity aren't taken into consideration when judgments are made.

Divorce mediation is a no-risk way of trying to work out an agreement with your spouse before a judge steps in and decides things for you. An attorney can help you learn more about mediation.

Source: Pearce Divorce Mediation, "Mediation FAQs," accessed June 01, 2017

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