At Ciancio Ciancio Brown, P.C., our Denver mediation lawyers focus on resolving the divorce and family law issues of our clients in the Denver area and throughout Colorado. We are skilled at finding creative solutions that protect the best interests of our clients. In many situations, this can be done outside of litigation.
Our law firm has extensive experience resolving disputes through alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods such as mediation and arbitration. ADR has many benefits, primarily reduced costs and minimal emotional strife. ADR is often ideal for parents who wish to maintain a workable relationship for the sake of jointly raising their children after divorce.
Divorce is difficult for both parties involved as well as any children involved. When a couple has made a life together, difficulties arise when it’s time to separate one household into two. Since hard feelings are nearly always involved in a divorce, communication and negotiation can be extremely challenging with emotions often getting in the way of reason and everyone’s best interests. That’s why professional mediation can be an important tool during a divorce. A neutral, compassionate person with training and experience can help navigate the facts through difficult emotions to get fair results for both parties.
In Colorado, couples can choose to use legal mediation at any time before, during, and after the divorce process. There are distinct advantages to mediating an agreement before you file for divorce, but mediation doesn’t have to be limited to the time period before filing. It’s important to understand that a judge is likely to order mediation during your proceedings to settle disputes if you don’t choose mediation voluntarily before your case goes to court.
Here’s what you should know about mediation in Colorado at each stage of a legal divorce proceeding:
Mediation before filing for divorce is the most recommended way to negotiate terms with a spouse once a divorce becomes inevitable. By using a mediator to negotiate the separation of assets you can reach a legal marital settlement agreement before you file. This makes your case eligible for an uncontested divorce which is a much easier and more streamlined process that can save both parties money, time, and stress with a joint divorce filing.
The professional Denver mediation lawyer helps you and your spouse to make officially documented agreements as to how to divide assets, marital properties, and debts. It may also include decisions on spousal maintenance which is Colorado’s term for alimony. Agreements on spousal maintenance include the amount one party pays the other and for how long the payments continue.
One of the most important aspects of mediation before filing is to work out custody and child support agreements for divorcing couples with children. A mediator can go over common workable options for custody arrangements, visitation, and child support to help you and your spouse develop an agreeable plan in the best interests of the children.
Once the disputes have been settled and both parties agree to the terms of the mediation, the documents can go before the judge at the divorce hearing already signed and ready so the judge doesn’t have to litigate the disputes in court.
Mediation after divorce proceedings have already begun is another way to attempt to reach an amicable agreement about property, support, and child custody. In most cases, mediation during divorce proceedings occurs as a result of a judge’s order because it didn’t take place or wasn’t successful before the divorce filing.
In some cases, mediation is more successful between divorcing parties after proceedings are already underway because the discovery period of the process may bring helpful factors to light, such as hidden assets and debts as well as professional input from child custody evaluation experts.
Mediation after a divorce is already finalized typically occurs when changing circumstances require reevaluating a prior agreement. For instance, when one parent wishes to relocate, make changes to the child support arrangement, or change a visitation schedule, it helps to mediate the terms outside of the courtroom before presenting a new agreement to the court.
Litigating a divorce case in court is costly, time-consuming, and stressful. That’s why more and more Colorado residents find help streamlining the painful process by using a professional mediator. These are typically Denver divorce attorneys such as those at Ciancio Ciancio Brown P.C. Mediators don’t have a judge’s decision-making authority, but instead, provide a neutral party to facilitate communication and negotiation to map out an agreement between both parties in the divorce before going to court to finalize.
Professional mediators have great experience in finding ways to peacefully negotiate agreements and resolve disputes away from the heated passion of arguments between a divorcing couple. Because both parties are heard and their wishes acknowledged, mediation is typically much more successful at satisfying both sides than a judge who is less familiar with the circumstances. Instead of a cold, impartial judge, the couple themselves have a hand in crafting the final agreement to take to court.
Mediators can guide couples to mutually-satisfying decisions by acting as an intermediary to discuss terms. Their extensive backgrounds in the division of assets and child custody help both parties to understand what’s expected by Colorado law and how a judge is likely to rule on any unresolved issues before they go to court so they can reach an amicable agreement. Often, experienced mediators suggest workable solutions that neither party thought of on their own.
Litigating in court is expensive. By choosing to work out an equitable agreement through mediation before your divorce, you’ll save money that’s better spent on transforming one household into two. The cost of mediation is split between both parties rather than the burden falling on only one side of the divorcing couple. Paying for mediation services is much less expensive than the cost of full legal representation in court to resolve disputes.
Finally, law offices like those at Ciancio Ciancio Brown P.C. in Denver are comfortable, neutral spaces for mediation that are much less intimidating than a courtroom and also provide a safe, monitored location for arguing spouses to come to terms as peacefully as possible. Many couples find that mediation in a neutral arena helps to initiate better conflict resolution skills between them. These skills become invaluable tools in the future when they must discuss custody and scheduling conflicts. Learning how to peacefully resolve disputes without anger is extremely beneficial going forward after a divorce, especially for couples with children.
The overwhelming majority of mediation cases settle in only one or two sessions. This is much faster than litigating in divorce court which can take a year or more. The amount of time mediation takes depends on several factors including:
Mediation is most cost effective if couples can resolve disputes and come to an equitable division of assets as well as a workable custody agreement in as few mediation sessions as possible.
Once divorce is inevitable, a couple has the option of choosing a private mediation service such as that offered by Ciancio Ciancio Brown P.C.. Colorado’s Office of Dispute Resolution (ODR) offers access to affordable mediation but you may not get the personalized negotiation and individual attention you deserve. By using a private service you’re more likely to have specialized mediators with years of experience in cases similar to yours whether you have children or no children, many assets or few assets. Private mediation offers support that’s better suited to your unique case.
Once you or your spouse has chosen a mediation service and made an appointment you only need to appear at the right date and time to attend the meeting, bringing along any requested documents. Remember, going into mediation with the goal of peaceful conflict resolution will help the process to move more quickly and cost less.
A couple shares all mediation fees.
Mediation fails when one party or the other in a divorce fails to appear for the scheduled mediation appointment or when the parties can’t resolve disputes and come to an agreement on asset division, debt division, child custody, child support, visitation or spousal support. Mediation is supposed to aid both people in the divorce to reach mutual decisions to resolve conflicts and streamline the divorce process without requiring litigation with a judge.
If you and your spouse are unable to reach agreements on one or more issues during mediation despite several attempts, there are three remaining options:
Sometimes couples are able to come to terms on their own after all of the issues are brought to light during the mediation process. Even if mediation ends without a signed agreement, couples may still attempt to mediate their own arrangements before it goes to trial.
There may also be times when mediation isn’t appropriate, such as in cases of spousal abuse or a history of intimidation by one spouse toward the other, or when addiction is involved. In some cases, couples may use a modified mediation process if spousal abuse, verbal abuse, or intimidation is a factor. Modifications may include separate sessions with the mediator.
When all attempts at mediation between a divorcing couple in Colorado fail, the next step may be arbitration.
In arbitration, each party is able to tell his or her side of the story, allowing an arbitrator to decide a binding outcome to the dispute. This differs from mediation, which is not binding and can be opted out of by either party at any point in the process in favor of pursuing litigation.
Unlike mediation, with arbitration any rulings made by the arbitrator are not only legally binding, but they are more difficult to overturn than those of a judge. Unlike a courtroom judge, you can’t overturn an arbitrator’s rulings based on the arbitrator’s misreading of the situation or even if they failed to apply the laws appropriately. That’s why it’s especially beneficial to resolve disputes with a mediator before attempting the more binding arbitration. If you do choose arbitration, it’s essential to use an experienced arbitrator with a good reputation.
So why choose arbitration over litigation in a courtroom? Some couples in Colorado choose an arbitrator to resolve their disputes because the timeline is much faster than litigating in court. They can also choose arbitrators with special knowledge that might apply to their specific situation in a way that they cannot choose a judge.
Cynthia L. Ciancio is a certified mediator who mediates for our firm in a broad range of family law disputes. She handles mediations with parties who already have lawyers.
Our Denver mediation lawyers are available to act as independent mediators and arbitrators, assisting parties in the resolution of their family law issues. We are also available to prepare clients for the ADR process, using our perspective as mediators and arbitrators to ensure our clients understand their rights and are fully prepared for the process that lies ahead. Contact us today for a case evaluation with our Denver family law attorneys.