Salt Lake City Attorneys Help Utahns Resolve Contested Divorces through Mediation
The first step: hiring a qualified divorce mediator
Utah law requires every contested divorce to begin with a mandatory attempt at mediation in the hope the spouses can reach a reasonable, mutually agreeable divorce. Our Salt Lake City legal team at Huntsman | Lofgran, in affiliation with the Divorce Mediation Institute of Utah, LLC, connects you with qualified divorce mediators who can objectively facilitate your divorce negotiations. We also counsel you during negotiations, helping you prepare your case and giving you advice on when and how to advance the arguments most important to you
A sensible approach to divorce
Divorce contests can run long and rack up legal expenses, particularly when emotions run high. Worse, they can be emotionally damaging, not just to the spouses, but also to any children involved. Utah’s Divorce Mediation Program encourages divorcing couples to communicate and agree on a more-or-less amicable split.
Mediation isn’t required for an uncontested divorce. It is required only if the respondent to a divorce filing indicates there is at least one issue on which they wish to be heard. This requirement is waived in certain circumstances, most typically when there is a record of domestic violence.
In divorce arbitration and litigation, arbiters and judges impose a solution. That doesn’t happen in mediation — instead, the spouses receive direction on how to construct their own agreement. This approach can bring several advantages, including:
- Potentially less emotional damage for you and your children, since proceedings are more peaceful.
- A potentially healthier long-term relationship with your ex.
- A divorce that’s quicker and less costly than a litigated one.
- More control over your divorce, because you — not a judge or arbiter — are making the decisions.
- Your divorce is private. (While a new law makes divorce records private, all court orders and decrees remain public
As you might guess, there are some caveats to divorce mediation, including:
- If negotiations fail, you must start again, with either another Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process (arbitration or collaborative law) or with litigation.
- If the mediator is inexperienced and responds more positively to one spouse, the outcome could be skewed.
- If it’s poorly drafted, the agreement you have constructed may be more challengeable and unenforceable.
- Your agreement may not be complete. Any issue of law that remains unresolved requires a ruling from the court.
- Since all financial information is self-reported — and undiscoverable by subpoena — mediation may not be appropriate if one spouse suspects the other of hiding assets.
- The process may not be appropriate for those living with a spouse who has a propensity for domestic or substance abuse.
Who participates in the negotiations
You, your spouse and the mediator attend your two- or three-hour session — or sessions. Your mediator may or may not be an attorney, but whoever they are, they are trained in facilitation and negotiation techniques and charged with objectively helping you both reach a mutually acceptable conclusion together.
Because the process is about two parties meeting in person to resolve differences on their own, your attorney is not allowed to attend your session(s). You may still retain an attorney, who prepares you for negotiations and helps you determine how best to make your case. Your attorney advises you on arguments you may encounter and offers strategies for negotiating them. Remember, even if the mediator is an attorney, they are not allowed to help either spouse with strategy.
When this route doesn’t work
In Utah, the mediator drafts a Memorandum of Understanding outlining those points on which an agreement has been made and those that are still unresolved. Both parties may review the memorandum with their legal counsel. Our attorneys at Huntsman | Lofgran counsel you on the ramifications of the agreement’s stipulations (the issues resolved), and we review with you any new resolution options you may wish to advance.
Amendments to the memorandum must be reviewed by your counterparty. Once both parties agree that the content is an accurate reflection as to what has been agreed, the memo is submitted to the court as a nonbinding agreement. If an agreement is not reached, the court is advised about which issues have been resolved and which could not be resolved. If neither party notifies the court that another ADR process is going to be attempted, the court automatically establishes a date for litigation to commence.
Contact a Salt Lake City firm that counsels you during your negotiation and steps in should it fail
Our attorneys at Huntsman | Lofgran have counseled hundreds of Utahns in successful divorce mediation and hundreds more when mediation has failed. For compassionate divorce counsel that seeks to reduce spousal friction while negotiating an equitable disposition, contact us online or call us at 801-474-0031. Our office hours are Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and ample, free parking is available at our Salt Lake City location.