At some point in time during a divorce case, the divorcing couple will usually be asked to attend a mediation to work out any unresolved issues. This process helps each person come to a joint agreement about issues like child custody, child support, or spousal support, which will save time in court later on.
For several reasons, what happens during a divorce mediation is strictly confidential, and cannot be used against either party in court later. In order to foster an open and honest dialogue between the divorcing couple, it is important that each person is able to speak freely without worrying that what they say in mediation can be used against them later on.
The divorce process can be emotional and difficult. The parties may be unable to communicate with each other effectively, due to feelings like anger, shame, or embarrassment. As a result, many people are unwilling to discuss the emotional issues involved in a divorce in a public arena like a courtroom, and are only comfortable speaking about their feelings in a confidential setting.
For mediators, it is important to understand a divorcing couple’s main sources of conflict, as well as the reasons why each person holds certain opinions about the major issues in the case. Often, the reasons for these opinions are intensely personal, and may involve re-opening old wounds.
If discussions with the mediator were not confidential, it is likely that very few issues would ever get resolved. Only when the participants are reassured that their discussions will remain private and cannot be disclosed to others will many people feel free to discuss their opinions in a productive way.
Additionally, confidentiality in mediations is important for couples who have a significant amount of wealth or assets which they do not want to be disclosed in the public record. While most divorce decrees will become part of the public record, this issues regarding those assets which are discussed in mediation will not.
There are a limited number of exceptions to the legal privilege and confidentiality which surrounds divorce mediations. These exception usually involve serious allegations of abuse or neglect. The mediator has a legal obligation to report child abuse, child neglect, or threats of physical violence to the appropriate authorities. In some instances, the mediator may be required to disclose these types of threats or admissions made in mediation in a later court proceeding.
Before beginning mediation, each party will be required to sign a document which covers their rights and obligation. This contract will cover the rules regarding confidentiality, and both parties should consult with their attorneys if they are not clear on what is required.
Mediation and settlement negotiations are an important part of reaching a resolution in a divorce case. At Pacific Northwest Family Law, we use our skills in mediation, negotiation, and collaborative law to help spouses communicate during the divorce process and reach agreements they can both live with. Using these services, you can work out a divorce decree or parenting plan which fits everyone’s needs without the unnecessary costs of fighting in court.
For help with your situation, contact us today by calling 509-572-3700.