Do I Have to Mediate before I File a Petition to Modify my Divorce Decree?

To mediate, or not to mediate — that is the question.

(Sorry, I usually don’t indulge in bad Hamlet puns, but this morning the opportunity proved too tempting.)

If you had a contested divorce, it’s very likely you mediated. It’s essentially required in the whole of Utah, and specifically required in many Utah districts.

In any case, you’re finished with your divorce. You have your decree, and it says what it says.

But you want to change things. You want to modify your divorce decree, and you’re not sure where to start the process.

Mediation before Filing a Petition to Modify

One question many have when they think about modifying their divorce decree is whether they have to mediate before they can file anything.

The answer depends on the language of your divorce decree.

Many, if not most, Utah divorce decrees require mediation before filing a petition to modify.

Best thing to do is read through your decree and look for a mediation clause.

Be careful, though. Sometimes decrees will contain a mediation clause when there is a disagreement about legal custody issues (i.e., big decisions regarding your child). You may be required to discuss and resolve that issue in mediation.

Having a mediation requirement to address legal custody issues is totally different from a mediation requirement before you can file for modification. So, read carefully.

If your decree does not specifically require mediation before you file a petition to modify, you don’t need to mediate.

On the other hand, if your decree contains a mediation clause regarding modifications, you’ll have to mediate at some point.

I say “at some point” because our policy is to file a petition to modify and then mediate.

The reason we do this is because filing a petition to modify before mediation actually helps lay out all of the issues to be discussed at mediation. If someone goes in to mediation feeling blindsided, they’re going to be on the defensive and negotiations probably won’t be successful.

In Conclusion

So, recap. If your divorce decree does not specifically require mediation before filing a petition to modify, then you don’t have to mediate. If it’s specific about requiring mediation, then you do.

In either case, you’ll end up mediating, so be prepared to do it sooner or later.

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