Must I engage in all-day mediation in my divorce action, or for some other specific time period?
No, there is no mandatory minimum period of time you must spend in mediation. You don’t have to stay in all-day mediation or for half a day or for any specific period of time. All you are required to do is engage in mediation in good faith. Here’s the applicable statute:
Utah Code Section 30-3-39. Mediation program.
(2) If, after the filing of an answer to a complaint of divorce, there are any remaining contested issues, the parties shall participate in good faith in at least one session of mediation. This requirement does not preclude the entry of pretrial orders before mediation takes place.
If you want to attempt to reach a settlement agreement and spend half a day or all day trying, you certainly can, BUT you are under no obligation to do that. If after just a few minutes of good faith effort you conclude (in good faith) that you don’t believe a fair settlement will be reached, you can stop. You don’t have to keep trying to settle for the sake of trying to settle.
Indeed, one of the biggest mistakes you can make in your divorce case is placing way too much faith reaching a settlement.
Many people, including their attorneys, count on settlement (the prospect of going to trial is unthinkable to them), which then leads these people to value settlement settlement’s sake. In other words, litigants and their attorneys become so focused on reaching settlement — any settlement — that they lose sight of the fact that the purpose of negotiating isn’t just settlement, but getting an outcome as good as or better than what they reasonably (even conservatively) believe they could/should achieve at trial. If your settlement isn’t better than what you would get at trial, then your settlement (and all the time and effort and money you put into it) is a waste. Other people are so desperate to settle (out of fear of trial or for other reasons) that they engage in all-day mediation out of the mistaken believe they can somehow bring about a fair settlement by sheer force of will. Either way, it leads to fruitless and costly all-day mediation.
It is not lost on me that many people have to make lousy settlements in their divorce actions because they simply run out of money or willpower to keep fighting.
People who settle out of exhaustion cannot be faulted for making lousy settlement deals when a lousy settlement is the best they could hope for. What many divorcing people forget, however, is that their spouses are usually in the same position. If you can just hold on a little longer, outwork and outlast just that little bit more, that’s when the fair offer is finally made or accepted.
Finally, there are those who settle on unfair terms because they have no better option and they absolutely know it. These are the people who settle because their spouses’ superhuman levels of tenacity born of unimaginable evil and mental and emotional instability. These are people who know that their spouses will never abide by any agreement, never abide by any court order. Those who are married to such monsters reach settlement simply to bring the divorce litigation to an end (or more accurately, in the hope of bringing the divorce litigation to an end).
Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277