Since 2005, Utah law places on a divorcing couple the general obligation to go through divorce mediation before continuing to resolve any matters that they cannot resolve through mutual agreement the court system. The reasons for making mediation mandatory are several, but they generally center on the desire of the Utah legislature and divorce system to minimize the use of the adversary system in favor of a more collaborative and conciliatory approach when it comes to matters that can involve the best interests of children as well as the spouses.
Some of the specifically-identified advantages of using mediation as a prerequisite for taking a divorce through court include reduced expense, reduced stress, faster means of resolving disagreements and reduced contentiousness between the spouses.
It is the basic rule that the spouses should identify and pay for a qualified mediator, usually paying in equal measure, although reduced-cost of even free mediation services can be available to spouses whose financial situation makes it impossible to afford to pay out of pocket. Once mediation commences, both spouses must participate in at least one mediation session before the divorce can move into court.
Although mediation is generally required, there are some circumstances under which either or both spouses can request not to use it. These include conflicts that would make mediation impractical or unsafe. It requires a good-cause showing to persuade the court to waive the mediation requirement.
Anyone who has questions about mandatory divorce mediation, or would like to have assistance of legal counsel in divorce mediation or with a divorce generally, should consider seeking the advice of a law firm that includes Utah family law as an integral part of its practice.