Steps in a mediation divorce
A typical divorce mediation case has three steps:
- Spouses meet with a mediator to discuss divorce topics.
- Legal documents are drafted, reviewed, and signed.
- A decree changing marital status is requested from a court.
Note: In Pennsylvania, this third step is done by submitting paperwork to a judge. Spouses are not required to set foot in court.
Husbands and wives may move through these three steps quite quickly, or as slowly as they wish. In divorce mediation, spouses choose the pace that is best for themselves and their family.
Step 1: Divorce mediation sessions
Divorce mediation sessions are meetings of both spouses with their mediator. During this first step in a mediation divorce:
- A mediator helps divorcing wives and husbands discuss all important topics.
- Spouses decide the terms of their divorce together.
Note: In my practice, about 9 in 10 divorcing couples reach an agreement.
Most sessions last two to three hours. More than one mediation session may be needed. Divorce mediation sessions can be held in person or by Zoom.
Spouses may feel anxious before and during a mediation session, but their divorce mediator will help them:
- calmly discuss divorce topics,
- consider common solutions to issues,
- focus on problem solving.
Spouses who had difficulty communicating recently may be surprised by how productive and peaceful mediation sessions can be.
Step 2: Legal documents in a mediation divorce
Most divorce mediation cases include reviewing and signing legal documents. Legal documents are drafted after spouses have discussed all important divorce topics with their mediator.
The legal document or documents needed in your case will be discussed at a free consultation about divorce mediation. Here is a list of Pennsylvania divorce documents that may apply:
- Postnuptial Agreement. Legally binding contract about any alimony, spousal support, distribution of marital property, distribution of retirement accounts in divorce, payment of marital debts, and many other important matters. A postnuptial agreement is drafted in about 85% of cases in my office.
- Child Support Agreement. Written agreement about each child's financial support, health insurance, healthcare costs, childcare costs, child-related expenses, child and dependent tax credits, etc.
- Child Custody Agreement. Written agreement about the parenting schedule (physical custody of a child), decision making (legal custody of a child), limits on relocation, etc.
Note: Divorcing parents are not required to sign a Child Support Agreement or Child Custody Agreement. Even if they choose not to sign these documents, divorcing moms and dads can still discuss child support and child custody topics with help from their mediator.
- Deed. Legal document transferring ownership of a residence or other real estate to one spouse.
- Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). Court order distributing a pension, or distributing a retirement plan (like a 401k, 403b, or deferred compensation plan) without tax penalty.
- Notice of Intention to Resume Prior Surname. Election to resume use of any prior name (for example a maiden name, birth name, or prior married name).
- Custody Order or Support Order. Court order by submitting a written agreement for child custody or child support to a court.
After documents are drafted, each spouse can take whatever time they need to review those documents before signing. Either spouse may choose to have their own attorney review documents before signing.
Step 3: Pennsylvania decree
A divorce decree is a court order that changes the marital status of divorcing spouses. Getting a decree of divorce, when both spouses are ready, is the third step in a typical mediation divorce.
Husbands and wives who reach an out-of-court agreement can get a Pennsylvania divorce decree without setting foot in court. This step is handled by submitting paperwork to a court.
An entire divorce mediation case that includes discussing and deciding important topics, signing Pennsylvania legal documents, and getting a Pennsylvania divorce decree can be completed in my office.
With my help, divorcing husbands and wives may request a decree from almost any county court in Pennsylvania. They may choose:
- their home county, especially if they want or need to file their postnuptial agreement.
- another Pennsylvania county, for privacy or reduced cost.
Options about where to file are discussed during divorce mediation sessions, so spouses may make an informed decision together.
Divorce mediation for you and your spouse
Consider sharing this website with your spouse. If both of you are interested in a mediation divorce, the next step is to schedule a free consultation about divorce mediation.
I wish you and your spouse much peace and well-being!Dann Johns
Divorce Mediator & Attorney