In the judicial system, a party is “pro se” when they represent themselves; they don’t use an attorney.
For pro se divorce mediation in Ohio, you also do not need to have an attorney with you.
Likewise, you also do not have to file for divorce first in order to use the mediation process in your divorce case.
If, on the other hand, by pro se divorce mediation you mean doing the mediation without a mediator, then that would not be mediation. It would simply be a negotiation directly between you and your spouse. Whether these direct negotiations will work will depend a lot on what kind of communication you are having with your spouse. Publications such as Divorce Negotiations might provide you tips on how to negotiate directly with your spouse if you want to try that first.
Going through the mediation process in a divorce before actually filing the divorce case in court can make sense; it will significantly reduce the amount of time you spend in the court system getting your divorce done. That’s because once you have a signed mediated agreement in your divorce, your divorce is an uncontested divorce from the beginning.
But there are things to keep in mind if you will go through the mediation and sign an agreement with no legal representation:
1. A mediated divorce agreement is a contract. This is a big factor to keep in mind because once you sign an agreement, you may find you can’t get out of it later in court. This will apply even if you didn’t have the advice of a lawyer to tell you the legal significance of the terms of the mediated agreement. It is important because it means that once you sign the agreement you may be stuck with it even if the legal consequences were not what you intended. The remedy for this is to have a lawyer review the agreement before you sign it, to make sure you understand the legal consequences of what you are agreeing to when you sign it.
2. There are still rules you may have to comply with. Ohio family law rules require some financial disclosures in certain situations. One example is where there is child support, in which case at least a financial affidavit will have to be filed by each parent in a divorce. While you do not need a lawyer to complete your financial affidavit, you will need one to be able to complete the child support guidelines where there are children in a divorce.
How to do a Pro Se Divorce Mediation in Ohio
Mediating in a Divorce
The process of doing a pro se mediation in Ohio is pretty straightforward. Of course, both you and your spouse must agree to mediate; otherwise there is no mediation to attend.
Since the whole point of mediation is to provide a process where each of you has as much power over your divorce as possible, there is no point in forcing someone to mediate.
Note: In a divorce that’s already been filed in court and is going to go to trial, parties are ordered to attend mediation in most courts in Ohio. This does not mean they have to mediate; it does mean they have to at least show up to the mediation. Whether there is an agreement from that point on is a different matter.
Choosing a Mediator
Once you are both in agreement to mediate, the next step is to choose a mediator. There is no requirement that you use a certified mediator in Ohio.
However, using a certified mediator is a good idea because certified mediators in Ohio are certified only after completing certain courses and meeting certain requirements. This ensures that you are using a trained professional with real skills to help you.
In addition, mediators in Ohio are certified according to areas. So, for example, a certified family mediator in Ohio is one who has received the specific training required to mediate family law issues, including divorce and anything related to divorce. Like all other certified mediators, certified family mediators are also required to complete continuing education to maintain their certification.
All of this training and requirements ensure that you get a trained professional who will probably be more effective at being able to help you resolve your divorce without costly litigation.
Both you and your spouse must agree on which mediator to use.
If there are children then the mediated agreement must also include a parenting plan. Parenting plans include provisions as to how much time children will spend with each parent and also the amount of child support to be paid by one or the other parent. Mediators will usually calculate the Ohio child support guidelines as part of their services in mediating your divorce.
Contacting the Mediator
Once you and your spouse have agreed on the mediator for your divorce mediation, contact them to find out about their rates, and how they work. It is important to determine what information you must bring to the mediation so that your session is more productive. It’s may also be a good idea to share the information with your spouse so that they can be equally ready to discuss the problems.
What to Do in a Mediation
The most important thing you can bring with you to a mediation is an open mind. It may sound silly, but if you walk into a mediation with the idea that you will get everything you want or there will be no agreement, then chances are that you will not reach an agreement.
The idea of mediating a divorce (or any other issue) is to create a win-win for both sides. An agreement that will work for both of you.
Besides keeping your mind open during the process of mediation, preparation includes collecting all documents related to the things that must be decided.
For example, if you and your spouse must deal with the home, then bring all documents that pertain to the home. In this example, that could be mortgage statements, unpaid tax and insurance bills; or, if your home is in foreclosure, the paperwork to reinstate the mortgage or to do a modification.
As another example, if you have children, then your paperwork may include extraordinary expenses relating to the children—perhaps medical bills left unpaid from a child’s last illness; or maybe paperwork on the tutoring cost for a child who needs some help while in school.
Of course, with children, the child support guidelines need to be calculated. Paperwork to bring for that would include pay stubs, tax returns for the last year and information on any health insurance covering the children.
At a minimum, preparation may include a list of talking points of things that are important to you and which must be decided with your spouse.
Once you’ve chosen a mediator, he or she may instruct you as to what to bring or what you should have before the date of the mediation.
At least in Ohio once a couple reaches an agreement, it is put in writing for both to sign. At this point, the options are also pretty straightforward.
The first option is for each of you to sign it. The second option is to take the agreement with you and have a divorce lawyer review it with you to make sure you understand what you are agreeing to, before you sign it.
If you have done the mediation before filing for divorce, the last step is filing the divorce case itself, with the agreement being filed together with all the papers.
For people who are doing their own divorce, Ohio has self-help centers that walk you through the entire process until the divorce decree is signed by the judge assigned to your case.
If you have a lawyer, the lawyer can set it for an uncontested divorce hearing. Although the actual schedule of the judge assigned to the case will determine when it will be set for hearing, it is not uncommon for an uncontested divorce to take about3 to 4 weeks after the agreement is signed.