Utah law requires that the parties to a divorce attend at least one session of mediation if any of their divorce issues are contested.
This requirement is set forth at Utah Code Section 30-3-35.
The mediation requirement does not prevent the court from entering pre-trial orders before the parties have attended mediation. Sometimes temporary orders will need to be entered quickly, before mediation can be accomplished. In addition, my experience has been that mediation is most effective after the parties have exchanged all the relevant financial and other information they would otherwise need for trial.
One provision in the law that I particularly like is that the parties must share equally the cost of mediation unless they agree otherwise, or unless the Court orders otherwise. This ensures that both parties have an equal stake in the outcome (or skin in the game, to use a financial metaphor) and incentives both parties to attempt in good faith to resolve all the contested issues, rather than just showing up to check off one of the boxes on their “getting a divorce” checklist.
Mediators must be qualified by meeting certain standards set forth by the Judicial Council
I like the mediation requirement because it recognizes that court-imposed solutions are not always ideal in the domestic arena. Mediation. also gives the parties the opportunity to create their own post-divorce outcome. It may not be the outcome either party idealizes, because mediation requires some give-and- take. But both parties will hopefully feel a sense of ownership in the outcome that each have shared in creating.
Obviously, there are cases that will not settle in mediation Even in these cases, however, my experience has been that the attempt to mediate is often beneficial in itself. It opens up lines of communication that might otherwise be bottled up. It helps the parties realize the need to consider the other party’s point of view, even if they strongly disagree with that point of view.
Most importantly, in my opinion, in cases involving custody and parent-time, it allows both parents to thoughtfully consider what is in the children’s best interests in a non-confrontational setting with a neutral third party.
In a word, I think the mediation requirement in divorce cases is on balance a wise law. But just because mediation is mandatory in contested divorce cases, this does not mean the parties are required to reach an agreement. It simply means they are required to give it the old “college try” (to use an old baseball metaphor).
This material should not be construed as legal advice for any particular fact situation, but is intended for general informational purposes only. For advice specific to any individual situation, an experienced attorney should be contacted.
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