We hear about celebrity divorces all the time. Gossip rags practically drip with the salacious details of infidelity, high stakes splits, and tales of epic, knock-down drag-out legal brawls. Sure, that’s not all of them; only the nasty or outlandish ones make the front page. Still, it feels unusual when an amicable split between two even-keeled celebrity spouses hits the news.
Nia Vardalos became a household name in 2002 when she wrote, produced, and starred in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, a surprise box office smash. She based the story on her real-life marriage to Ian Gomez. The two recently announced they intend to divorce after almost 25 years of marriage.
That’s not unusual. Divorce is a common occurrence after all. But instead of fighting tooth-and-nail over every last scrap, the couple also announced they plan to use mediation to settle the divorce.
When you think of divorce, you may think of pitched court battles. That makes for great drama on TV and in movies. Despite what you see in the media, however, most divorces don’t go to trial. You have multiple options when ending a marriage. Called alternate dispute resolution, or ADR for short, these offer alternatives to court. Mediation is one such option.
1. What is Mediation?
Mediation is a strategy often employed in civil cases like divorce and child custody quarrels.
In this method of ADR, two parties work together in an attempt to reach a mutually agreeable resolution.
An outside third-party facilitates these efforts. Divorcing couples often use mediation to divide property, hash out parenting plans, decide on spousal support, and resolve other issues.
2. Is Mediation Legally Binding?
The short answer is no, mediation is not legally binding. You can go through the process, and if you find the ultimate decision unsatisfactory, terms aren’t forced on you. At the end of the day, both parties must agree to the conditions on their own.
Mediators don’t pass judgment, they’re only present in order to grease the wheels and help the spouses come to an arrangement on the issues at hand. A judge ultimately must sign off on any divorce decision, but may not if a deal skews too far to one side. Once official, it becomes legally binding.
3. How Long Does It Take?
How long mediation takes varies a great deal from one case to the next. It is, however, usually much faster and more streamlined than a lengthy trial. Most mediations only last a day or so.
They’re also often easier to schedule and can fit into your life rather than taking what a court gives you, so they can be much more convenient. In most situations, mediations tend to be less complicated cases than those that go to trial. As with other cases, the more complex and contentious, the longer, more in-depth the process. Shorter cases also often mean lower costs, a nice added bonus.
4. Is it Confidential?
One reason people often choose mediation is that it’s much more confidential. Cases don’t become part of the public record and conversations and communication between spouses stay private. A professional code of conduct compels mediators to keep any information confidential and under wraps.
As with most legal matters, there are, of course, exceptions, like cases of child abuse or potential criminal actions that may cause harm. Still, it’s a behind-closed-doors affair and it’s easy to see why a celebrity like Nia Vardalos might opt for this route rather than a traditional court divorce.
Related Reading: Are Divorce Records Public? (Yes, here’s how to acquire them.)
5. Do I Need a Divorce Lawyer?
One benefit of mediation is that it doesn’t require a divorce lawyer. This often saves money on legal fees and the like. That said, it’s a good idea to consider representation. After all, this is still a legal process and things can get complicated in a hurry. An experienced professional can guide you through the ins and outs and help obtain an optimal outcome.
They can also ensure any deal you reach is fair. It’s especially important to consider hiring an attorney if your spouse has one, just to even the playing field. Still, even if you hire a divorce lawyer for mediation, it will likely cost much less than going to court.
6. How Does Mediation Differ From Arbitration?
Arbitration is another form of alternate dispute resolution. It’s similar to mediation in some regards but different in others. Again, both parties sit down with an outside third party instead of going to court. While spouses work together in mediation, arbitration can resemble a trial.
Both sides present arguments and evidence, and in these cases, the arbitrator has the power to make rulings.
Entering into the arbitration process is voluntary, but unlike mediation, the resulting judgments are in fact legally binding.
7. Why Choose Mediation?
So, the question of the day is why chooses mediation? The fast answer is that it makes divorce quicker, cheaper, and easier. At least if you and your ex can play nice and act like adults. Mediation also tends to be much less stressful. Instead of the pressure of appearing in court, presenting your case, and waiting for a decree, this is two people in a room working out an arrangement that, ideally, everyone can live with.
Mediation doesn’t work in every case. Some divorcing couples give it a try, but eventually still wind up in court. It’s not right for every situation, but if you can make it work, sometimes mediation is the optimal choice to end your marriage.