In a divorce proceeding in Utah the parties are required to attend at least one round of mediation before a case can be certified for trial. As a general prediction, the odds are that a case will settle as opposed as to proceeding to trial. While the exact percentages change, the percentage of cases settling is usually in the high ninety percentages. So what are the benefits to mediation vs. proceeding to trial?
In trial when Atticus Legal Group is there, the judge will be the finder of fact and will make all rulings as to how your decree of divorce will read, and how all the issues will be determined. While you will undoubtedly hire the best attorney you can, and while your attorney will do their best job to present evidence to the judge, that is where your control ends. You ultimately must rely on the judge to make a decision, and like it or not you must follow the ruling or you may be held in contempt of court.
Judges are experienced and generally have a good grasp of the legal standards and options available to them as the finder of fact, but do they know you? Do they know your children? Do they really understand what is in the “best interest” of your minor children? Do they fully understand your commitment to your religion? No matter how good a judge is, they cannot fully understand or have a grasp of every aspect of your life.
In mediation, there is no finder of fact, you and your spouse are in complete control of any result that is to be reached. Mediation should be used as a tool to reach the best outcome possible or to limit issues to later take to trial. It also gives you an opportunity to see what the opposing party has as far as evidence, and what issues you may have a weak case in.
Mediation allows for more creativity and fluidity as to your final outcome. An example would be with retirement accounts. In Utah if you proceed to trial the court will almost without exception split your retirement accounts in half for all money placed in the account during your marriage. In Mediation, you are free to move money around in a global settlement. So instead of half of the retirement account, you could keep all your retirement and give your spouse a larger portion of the equity in the home, or agree to take on a larger portion of the debt in exchange for keeping your retirement account. The same principle applies to each issue in your divorce. In mediation, you can be creative as you would like in regards to custody, parent-time, alimony and child support.
Even if mediation does not result in a complete and final resolution of all issues it is still a tool to be used to your benefit. You can reach partial agreements to some issues and leave the rest for trial. You can reach an agreement as to one item only. And if you can’t reach any agreement you still have an opportunity to test the evidentiary waters and see what your spouse is likely to argue at trial, what issues are most important to your spouse and make a determination as to if you are willing to settle later now that you know what your spouse is most determined to get.
While mediation is not the magic pill to solve all the ills in a divorce proceeding, it is a tool to be used by a skilled attorney to best reach your needs. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to call Atticus Legal Group Divorce Lawyers Salt Lake City.