We can hardly talk to each other; is mediation a suitable option for us? What happens if mediation fails? Are agreements made during mediation as valid as a court ruling?
Mediation has many advantages. For example, a mediation process is much shorter than court proceedings. Issues can typically be resolved with just three meetings, while court proceedings can drag on for years. Moreover, mediation is far less expensive. The spouses share the costs of the mediator. When going to court, each spouse must pay for their own lawyer. In addition, everyone pays the legal costs (known as court fees, or in Dutch: 'griffierechten'). Finally, mediation addresses the underlying problem. Sometimes a disagreement about money isn't about money at all, but about other problems within the relationship. Old (and new) pain often make proceedings complicated and lengthy. A judge spends little to no time on this, while a mediator does. Resolving the old pain means solving the problem (for good).
Mediation also works when the parties involved are not on speaking terms. The mediator discusses why communication is so difficult or impossible. The spouses work on their mutual communication.
So what happens if you can't work it out despite mediation? Then you can still hire a lawyer. The mediator may not serve as the lawyer for either spouse. Any agreements made during mediation and confirmed in a settlement will remain valid. This also applies when mediation stops before everything has been arranged. A mediation process is always valuable, even when terminated early. The information gathered can be used in the court proceedings. Moreover, the court often redirects the parties involved to mediation. This will not be done as quickly when mediation has already been attempted.