Once the decision has been made to divorce, most people want it to go through as quickly, cheaply, and as pain-free as possible.
There is no such thing as a quick and easy divorce in Maine, but there are ways to make it less stressful and expensive.
Much depends on what you are able to agree on with your ex. If you can find agreement on most of the main points, the rest can be negotiated or mediated without the need for the intervention of a judge. That saves time, money, and grief.
Divorce mediation is one of the most effective avenues for couples to resolve differences in an amicable way. Mediation is an “alternate dispute resolution” mechanism that is generally encouraged in Maine because of its track record in helping to resolve family law matters and keeping divorce proceedings out of the courtroom.
Here’s what you need to know about the divorce process and how mediation may fit in.
Providing you or your spouse has been a Maine resident for the last six months, you can start the divorce process by filing papers and paying the fee at your local courthouse.
Most couples cite “irreconcilable differences” as the grounds for divorce. The divorce papers must be served on your spouse by a deputy or private process server.
Under Maine divorce laws, once your spouse signs for the papers to prove receipt, a mandatory waiting period of 60 days kicks in before your case can be heard in court.
Within this waiting period, the court will schedule a “case management hearing”. At this hearing, you will be expected to discuss any issues regarding your settlement and a decision will be made about how your divorce will proceed.
It is in the interests of the court to avoid unnecessary litigation, which takes up court time. All attempts will, therefore, usually be made to help you and your spouse reach a settlement without it proceeding to trial.
Generally speaking, the major sticking points in a divorce in Maine include the following:
It is normal to have differences—often considerable ones—at first during a divorce. However, that does not have to mean that you and your spouse must end up fighting with each other in a courtroom to resolve them. Every chance will be provided for you to settle your differences without a trial.
The opportunity for mediation is open to you and your spouse at any time before the divorce reaches that stage. You can enter this process voluntarily or it may be court-mandated.
If, at your case management hearing, it is clear that you and your spouse have different expectations concerning any of the key matters, mediation with a court mediator is generally required before your case progresses through the court system.
The over-arching main benefit of mediation is that it reduces the time, expense and stress involved in divorce proceedings.
No divorce is easy, but some are considerably harder than others. If both parties can agree to mediation, you may find considerable benefits in the following:
There is no set formula for mediation sessions. The exact process you will go through will depend on your mediator and the nature of your relationship with your ex-spouse.
A mediation session can be run by a lawyer trained in mediation or another professional with the necessary qualifications. You will normally attend sessions in a neutral setting, meeting with the mediator face to face in separate rooms at first.
Mediation may also be conducted with you and your ex-spouse in the room together, depending on the situation. Lawyers for both parties may or may not be present.
It is important to remember that a mediator makes no decisions (unlike an arbitrator or judge) and offers no legal advice (like a lawyer).
The role of the mediator is simply to facilitate discussion towards an agreement in the interests of both parties, and to act as an intermediary between them.
If an agreement is reached, the mediator can assist in drawing up the necessary points of agreement paperwork to ensure that the court has the necessary documentation. Then, all the judge will need to do is grant approval for the divorce because all other matters are settled.
Following a successful and complete mediation, your divorce lawyer will draft the proposed final divorce judgement for the judge’s signature. He or she will summarize the terms that you have agreed upon so that they are legally binding and ensure that the necessary documentation is submitted to the court. Take care to avoid online agreements, which may not hold up in court. All points have to be documented and signed off on by the parties.
Your divorce will then pass through the Maine court system as quickly as possible as an uncontested divorce.
If you need assistance with any aspect of divorce in Maine, including mediation, start by booking a consultation with a family mediation lawyer at The Maine Divorce Group.
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The attorneys at The Maine Divorce Group understand how emotional and complex the divorce process can be and we are here to help.
Call to speak with a member of our team today, who can discuss your case and set up a consultation with one of our attorneys.
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