By Robert Schwartz and Marlene Pontrelli

At some point during the course of your divorce, you will likely want to consider whether there is a better way to resolve the issues between you and your spouse without going to trial. Even though the divorce may start as a litigation matter, going to trial is not a foregone conclusion.  Most divorce cases settle without the need for a trial, and mediation should always be considered as an alternative.

Mediation is the process by which a neutral third party helps the parties reach agreement on disputed issues. A mediator cannot give legal advice. Rather, the mediator’s job is to help you and your spouse reach agreement on all issues. These issues include division of property, spousal maintenance, child support, parenting time, and legal decision-making.

If you are represented by a lawyer, you and your lawyer will likely be in one room, while your spouse and his or her lawyer are in another room. The mediator will then go back and forth between the parties attempting to negotiate a settlement. This method works particularly well because your lawyer will be there to give you legal advice and can advise on the risks and benefits of accepting a particular proposal offered by your spouse. At the same time you do not have to be in the same room as your spouse which may help to facilitate a more open exchange of information and ideas that can be conveyed through the mediator.

Discuss with your lawyer the following potential benefits to mediating your divorce case:

  • Addressing a solution that works for your family. Each case is unique. However, judges often use a standard parenting and holiday plan which may not work best for your family. Mediation allows you to consider what is most important to each party in structuring a parenting plan, arranging summer vacation, and celebrating holidays.
  • Creating a safe place for communication. Mediation gives each party an opportunity to be heard and a safe place for you to explore settlement. Settlement discussions in mediation are confidential. Accordingly, if offers are made in mediation and the matter does not settle, the fact that there were admissions and offers made during the mediation process cannot be used later at trial.
  • Reducing legal costs. While there is still preparation done in advance of a mediation, settling a case in mediation may save a significant amount in fees both for your attorney to prepare for trial and the cost of expert witnesses in cases. This is particularly true where you may need to retain experts for trial such a real estate appraisers, business valuators, forensic accounts, or other professionals.

Resolving your divorce through mediation has many advantages and in most cases should be considered prior to preparing for trial. Despite the circumstances that led to the end of your marriage, it may be possible for your divorce to end peacefully with an amicable resolution.


About the Authors:
Bob Schwartz is a Member in our Phoenix office. Bob has been practicing law for over 40 years, specializing in family law. He is a member of the American, Arizona and Maricopa County Bar Associations. He is admitted to practice in the federal courts of New York, Arizona, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the U.S. Supreme Court. Mr. Schwartz is a fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and past president of the Arizona chapter. He serves as a judge pro tem for the Superior Court of Maricopa County in family court matters. He is a certified family law specialist by the State Bar of Arizona; is a frequent lecturer on family law and related matters; and, former member of the State Bar Family Law Advisory Commission. Mr. Schwartz has tried numerous complex business valuation cases as well as complex custody cases. He has testified as an expert in family law matters. Bob has co-authored the recently published Divorce in Arizona book. He may be reached in our Phoenix office at 602-285-5020 and you may review his bio here.

Marlene Pontrelli is a Member in our Phoenix office. Marlene is a certified specialist in family law. Her practice focuses on all aspects of family law including dissolution, post-dissolution, paternity, child custody and child support matters. She is admitted to practice in California and Arizona. She is a member of the State Bar’s Family Law Practice and Procedure Committee and is a judge pro tem for the Superior Court of Maricopa County in family law. Ms. Pontrelli obtained her life coaching certificate through the Professional Coaching Institute in 2005. She has extensive trial and appellate experience including appearing before the Arizona Court of Appeals, Arizona Supreme Court and Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Ms. Pontrelli has written several books, including the recently published Divorce in Arizona, She is a frequent lecturer in the area of family law and has conducted workshops throughout the country on time management and balancing work and personal life. Marlene may be reached in our Phoenix office at 602-285-5081 and you may review her bio here.