Steps in a mediation divorce
A typical divorce mediation case has three steps:
- Spouses meet with a mediator to discuss divorce topics.
- Legal documents are drafted, reviewed, and signed.
- A decree changing marital status is requested from a court.
NOTE: In Pennsylvania, this third step is done by mail. Spouses who reach an agreement to divorce are not required to set foot in court.
Husbands and wives may move through these three steps quite quickly, or as slowly as they wish. In divorce mediation, spouses choose the pace that is best for themselves and their family.
STEP 1: Divorce mediation sessions
Divorce mediation sessions are meetings of both spouses with their mediator. During this first step in a mediation divorce:
- A mediator helps divorcing wives and husbands discuss all important topics.
- Spouses decide the terms of their divorce together.
NOTE: In my practice, about 9 in 10 divorcing couples reach agreement.
Each session lasts up to three hours. More than one mediation session may be needed. Divorce mediation sessions can be online or in-person.
Spouses may feel anxious before and during a mediation session, but their divorce mediator will help them:
- calmly discuss divorce topics,
- consider common solutions to issues,
- focus on problem solving.
Spouses who had difficulty communicating recently may be surprised by how productive and peaceful mediation sessions can be.
STEP 2: Legal documents in a mediation divorce
Most divorce mediation cases (about 88% in my office) involve reviewing and signing one or more legal documents. Legal documents are drafted after spouses have discussed all important divorce topics with their mediator.
Particular legal documents needed in your case will be discussed at a free consultation about divorce mediation. Here is a list of Pennsylvania divorce documents that may apply:
- Postnuptial Agreement. Legally binding contract about any alimony, spousal support, distribution of marital property, distribution of IRA in divorce, payment of marital debts, and other divorce matters.
- Child Support Agreement. Written agreement about each child's financial support, health insurance, healthcare costs, childcare costs, child-related expenses, child and dependent tax credits, etc.
❝An entire divorce mediation case that includes discussing and deciding important topics, signing Pennsylvania legal documents, and getting a Pennsylvania divorce decree can be completed in my office.❞
NOTE: Divorcing parents are not required to sign a Child Support Agreement or Child Custody Agreement to divorce in Pennsylvania. Divorcing moms and dads are encouraged to discuss child support and child custody issues during mediation—so they may make informed decisions about whether to sign documents on those topics.
- Child Custody Agreement. Written agreement about the parenting schedule (physical custody of child), decision making (legal custody of child), limits on relocation, etc.
- Deed. Legal document transferring ownership of a residence or other real estate to one spouse.
- QDRO (Qualified Domestic Relations Order). Court order distributing a pension, or distributing a retirement plan (401k, 403b, etc.) without tax penalty.
- Notice of Intention to Resume Prior Surname. Election to resume use of any prior name (maiden name, birth name, prior married name).
- Order merging support agreement or custody agreement. Agreed court order for child support or child custody.
After I draft documents, each spouse can take whatever time they need to review those documents before signing. Either spouse may choose to have their own attorney review documents before signing.
STEP 3: Pennsylvania decree
A divorce decree is a court order that changes the marital status of divorcing spouses. Getting a decree of divorce—when both spouses are ready—is the third step in a typical mediation divorce.
Husbands and wives who reach an out-of-court agreement can get a Pennsylvania divorce decree without setting foot in court. So, this final step is handled by mail.
With my help, divorcing husbands and wives may request a decree from any county court in Pennsylvania. They may choose:
- their home county, especially if they want or need to file their postnuptial agreement.
- another Pennsylvania county, for privacy or reduced cost.
These options are discussed during divorce mediation sessions, so spouses may make an informed decision together.