Understanding The Mediation Process
Domestic relationships of all kinds can take an emotional toll on those involved. It can be hard to imagine that any agreements can be reached when in the midst of a divorce, a child custody dispute, dividing assets, or determining support payments. Mediations are not just for “uncontested” matters. Mediations are most effective when the parties seem to be at an impasse on any issues arising from either divorce or paternity disputes. The role of a mediator is to facilitate the conversation between the parties, to help them communicate their interests in a way that they may not have considered. When the interests of each side are clearly understood, and the problems surrounding those interests are identified, solutions can be discovered.
Mediation works best when both parties are willing to participate in the process, which may include the following steps:
- An initial meeting is held with a mediator to discuss the process, and answer any questions that the parties may have. The mediator will assure both sides that he or she will remain neutral, and will not make judgments or recommendations that either side is “right” or “wrong.” It is the mediator’s role to facilitate an open and honest discussion of the issues presented in the case, with the goal that agreements can be reached.
- Further meetings would be held to discuss the issues identified by the parties. Typically, each mediation meeting or session is no more than two hours long. If the issues are not resolved by the end of each meeting because more information is needed to solve a problem, “assignments” are given to each party or both parties in order to move toward a resolution (e.g., an appraisal of a house or other property is needed).
- Once a global agreement is reached, the mediator will then prepare a written agreement for consideration by the parties and submission to the court for entry into a Judgment.
Advantages Of Mediation Over Litigation
- Privacy: All discussions are private and confidential. The mediator cannot discuss the mediation with anyone outside of those individuals involved in the process (the parties and their attorneys). The mediator cannot be called as a witness if the case does go to court. In this way, the parties can be open and honest with each other, the mediator, and themselves. Mediation helps avoid open court motions and arguments, and the only time the parties will be in court will be to submit the Agreement to the court for entry into a Judgment. This appearance is required in all divorce and paternity cases.
- Control: Going to Court means that you are entrusting the judge to make decision for your family. The facts the judge considers depends upon the rules of evidence, which will be argued by the attorneys in the case, and may limit the information provided to the judge to make their decision. Years are condensed into hours, and a trial judge is given the difficult task of rendering decisions under those circumstances.
Mediation allows the parties to maintain control over their case, and allows you and the other party to include provisions in your agreement that the Judge would not enter when entering a Judgment. No one knows your life and the lives of your children better, so you are in the best position to make decisions that further the best interests of your family now and for many years to come.