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Does a divorce filing preclude the option of mediation?

The recent celebrity divorce of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie raises the important issue of divorce mediation. Jolie officially filed for divorce in court, but that doesn’t mean that the couple’s only option is litigation. To the contrary, many courts are more than willing to set aside a period of time for mediation, as the process eases the burden of the court’s voluminous docket.

Divorce mediation can really be a win for everyone involved. First and foremost, the mediation process is confidential. Even a couple’s kids may not be able to access the records. Unlike emotional testimony in a public courtroom, the mediator will work with a divorcing couple and their attorneys behind closed doors. Mediation is also not like binding arbitration, since the parties may resume litigation if their negotiations break down.

The divorce mediator will highlight common areas between the parties’ positions, identify ways to compromise over differences, and articulate various settlement proposals. In the case of the Pitt-Jolie divorce, some commentators suggest that the couple will turn to mediation for the sake of shielding their children from publicity. Yet the couple may have some difficult discussions ahead of them, as Jolie has asked for sole physical custody of the couple’s children.

Our law firm has guided many divorcing parents through the difficult process of establishing a custody agreement. Many courts presume that a joint legal and physical custody arrangement will be in a child’s best interest. However, the best interest of the child is paramount, so other factors might justify a different result. A parent whose work requires extensive travel might do better with visitation rights instead of joint physical custody. Notably, joint legal custody can still be maintained even if a parent does not have joint physical custody.

Source: CNN, “Helping kids survive a (very public) divorce,” Kelly Wallace, Sept. 21, 2016

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