Divorce is a big decision. Deciding how to divorce is the next biggest decision that can impact your future and your family’s future forever. Imagine, a divorce without lawyers. Pro se divorce mediation may be exactly what you’ve been looking for. “Pro” what did you say? “Pro se” is a Latin term meaning “In one’s own behalf.” In other words, this is not an attorney-driven divorce process. In a pro se divorce mediation, you and your spouse meet with a trained mediator who will assist you in creating a resolution to your divorce.
What are the advantages of pro se divorce mediation?
- You save time and money. In pro se divorce mediation, you meet with the mediator for two-hour private sessions. Many cases are concluded successfully in 3-4 sessions. This is an efficient and affordable resource for most families.
- The meetings are private and confidential. This allows the couple to have difficult conversations in a safe environment. Move from chaos to clarity. The couple is empowered to discuss their goals and create options for their future with the guidance of the meditator.
- Allied professionals can be utilized. A couple can decide that they need more information or assistance from a mental health professional in regard to making decisions for their children, or in preparing a parenting plan. Additionally, a couple may decide that they need to hear options around their financial decisions, and they may require assistance from a financial professional. These professionals are an invaluable resource, and can be utilized in the pro se divorce mediation in many effective ways.
- The divorce documents can be prepared. In a pro se divorce mediation, you have the option of having the mediator prepare all the documents necessary for concluding your divorce. After these documents are prepared you may either file them in the court yourself or you may take them to a lawyer to file them for you.
- The process supports the well-being of your family. Divorce itself can be very stressful. However, the process used to accomplish divorce does not have to be. Pro se divorce mediation promotes wellness, cooperative option-building, and positive decision-making.
How do we begin?
The pro se divorce mediation usually begins with the couple deciding that they want to divorce, and that they want to do it privately, respectfully, and efficiently, with the least amount of impact on their family. The couple should do their research to locate a pro se divorce mediator, and set an appointment with the mediator together.
How does the process work?
The first mediation session is utilized to explain the pro se divorce mediation process, the confidential aspects of the process, and the mediator’s role in assisting the couple during the mediation. Then the mediator will spend some time discussing how the couple will work through the many decisions of their case using the P.E.A.C.E acronym.
In the P.E.A.C.E. acronym, “P” refers to parenting issues if you have children. This includes a parenting plan, parental responsibility, timesharing, and any other aspects of raising your children that need to be discussed, including special needs. “E” refers to equitable distribution, which means how to divide all of your stuff. This includes everything from your house, money, retirement, and debts, to your furniture, collections, and clothes. “A” refers to alimony support. Alimony is based on the need of one spouse and the ability of the other spouse to pay to help support the spouse in need for a period of time. It is also based on the length of the marriage. “C” refers to child support. Child support is determined by a statutory formula in Florida based upon the net monthly incomes of the parents and the number of overnights the minor child spends with each parent. Lastly, “E” refers to everything else. This catchall phrase allows the mediator to address any other issues that the family may need help solving.
After the mediator discusses how the sessions will be organized, the couple will spend some time educating the mediator on where they are in the divorce. Have they both decided that divorce is imminent? Have they made any kitchen table agreements? Are there any issues that need to be addressed with their children? Will it be beneficial to engage any allied professionals to assist them? By the end of the meeting, the list of homework for the couple and the mediator will be discussed, and a date set for the next meeting.
In subsequent meetings, the couple and the mediator may be joined by any allied professionals that have been engaged to assist them. During each meeting, the couple will work towards making important decisions for their future. They will build a parenting plan if they have children that will meet the needs of their children and set the expectations for their co-parenting. They will create their marital settlement agreement which will guide them through the transition of being a married couple to being unmarried.
How do we conclude?
Finally, at the conclusion meeting, the couple will sign all the divorce documents, including the parenting plan if they have children, and the marital settlement agreement. This is the time that they can either engage an attorney to assist them in the ministerial task of filing their case with the court, and getting the final judgment of dissolution signed by the judge, or they can do it themselves. The choice is theirs to make.
Pro se divorce mediation makes sense for many couples. When people decide to get married, they immediately start planning. They plan the date, the venue, the guest list, the dress, the attire, the flowers, the food, the cake, and a thousand other little details. Imagine a future where a couple who has decided to divorce choose to put just as much care and attention into addressing and planning all the important details of their divorce. This is the promise of the pro se divorce mediation.