Mediating property division in a divorce
Dividing property can be one of the most difficult issues in a divorce, especially in those cases where the parties have accumulated significant assets during the marriage. Tennessee law requires the divorce court to order the parties to participate in mediation to resolve their differences, including the division of marital assets. While many people have a general understanding of this requirement, persons facing a divorce do not always understand how the process works and how it can be beneficial.
Mediation requires the services of a third party, usually a retired judge or specially trained lawyer. The mediator is trained to listen to the parties and to understand their positions without judging the legal merit of the argument. Perhaps the mediator’s most important function is to explain a party’s position to the other party, thereby ensuring that a dispute is not the result merely of misunderstanding. A mediator can be especially helpful in resolving complex property division issues by suggesting alternative means of valuing or dividing particular assets.
Each mediator has a particular style in conducting a mediation session. Some want the parties in the same room, and some will place the parties in separate rooms. In either case, however, the mediator must listen carefully to each party’s proposal on each of the issues that must be resolved. A mediator cannot make any decisions on any of the issues; rather, the mediator’s job is to suggest compromises that can help the parties work through their differences.
Another question is the role played by the parties’ attorneys in the mediation process. In high-asset divorces, each party is likely to be represented by counsel. Being represented by an experienced divorce attorney can be the difference between using the mediation to negotiate a favorable result and making unwise decisions that sacrifice valuable assets or merely prolong the dispute.