Divorce mediation is very common in the Netherlands. Mediation offers spouses the opportunity to reach a negotiated divorce settlement without going to court.
How does mediation work?
Each mediation starts with the willingness by both parties to engage with each other and sit around the same table. Parties can either agree mediation beforehand or be referred there by the courts during a court case. It is now common practice for Dutch courts to promote alternative dispute resolution during court cases. The reasoning being that most court decisions are ‘all or nothing’ and can lead to even more court cases being initiated by the losing party. By using mediation parties can come to a mutually agreeable and lasting settlement.
Mediation makes it much easier to communicate without fear of repercussions, as discussions may not be used in a court of law at a later date. Parties must sign a confidentiality agreement (NDA) before commencing mediation.
Once a mediator has been appointed, talks can begin. Usually the first meeting is not about the dispute itself, but about how the mediation process will proceed. Parties meet the mediator either together or separately so that the mediator can gather information for the further process.
In most cases, the mediator will commence by talking about how the dispute came about and leave room for both parties to tell their side of the story. However, this is not a counselling session. The objective of the mediator is to see where the heart of the problem lies.
This process usually gives the mediator a clear picture of the dispute and what parties’ positions and interests are. If not, then the mediator may take some more time to uncover what the root of the problem actually is.
Parties interests and concerns are the main tool used to mediate successfully. The mediator helps parties to identify these interests. There may not only be conflicting interests, but also common interests. For example. parties agree on the future care of their children. Once the conflicting and common interests are clear to both parties, the way forward will often become evident and an agreement will follow. Some interests are more important than others and may be crossed off or traded. Or parties may find a compromise which harms neither position. The main thing is that parties themselves come to an agreement that is mutually beneficial and leads to a final solution.
What can be agreed?
That is really up to the parties themselves. Typically, topics that will cross the table during divorce mediation are:
- allocation of the marital home
- division of marital property
- settlement of debts
- spousal maintenance
- parenting plan for the future care of the children
- child maintenance
- pension division
Once an agreement is reached, a binding contract, the divorce agreement, is prepared by the mediator. Parties can then file for a joint divorce. The divorce will be granted by the courts within a few weeks.
The advantages of divorce mediation
The advantages of mediation are not just financial. It is our experience that parties that agree mutually on a settlement are less likely to have future conflicts regarding what has been agreed. Coming to an amicable settlement at an early stage is also always beneficial for any children involved in the divorce.
At Dutch Divorce Lawyer, Sabine Imdahl is a specialist family law mediator registered with the Dutch Mediation Federation (MfN). Sabine can mediate in fluent German, English or Dutch.
Please contact us if you want to explore the possibilities of mediaton further