Questions About Mediation
1. What is mediation?
Mediation is the process where parties meet with another individual to work out the terms of their dispute in a non-confrontational, non-litigated fashion. Usually, the mediator is an experienced family attorney, trained in the mediation process, who can familiarize the parties with their rights under the law, explore various options for resolution beyond those that a court may order, and allow the parties to make more creative and informed decisions about the terms of their dissolution, or other disputed matter.
2. How does mediation work?
The parties meet with the mediator who gathers information about the parties’ assets, obligations, income and children=s needs, or other information relevant to the matter being mediated. In a dissolution of marriage, the mediator usually prepares a Petition on behalf of one party representing himself or herself and files it with the Court to start the legal proceeding so the parties can get divorced. The mediator helps the parties prepare Declarations of Disclosure, disclosing all of their assets and obligations.
The parties meet several times to discuss the issues of property division, child support, spousal support, child custody and other pertinent issues. The mediator works to help the parties reach agreement on issues which are contested. This may take a few or many sessions.
At the end of a mediation, the agreements reached are written up into a settlement agreement. Each party then has his or her own attorney review the agreement before it is sent to Court. Sometimes changes are made after the attorneys have reviewed the proposed Agreement, and before it becomes a Judgment or Court Order.
3. What are the advantages to mediation?
Mediation can be a less expensive and less stressful process than any court proceeding. The mediator’s job is to educate the parties, help them communicate more effectively, and discuss their concerns, including concerns that might otherwise not be a relevant to the Court in a litigated situation. Resolving disputes by mediation models and develops conflict resolution skills that can help in the event future issues arise between the parties, such as related to their children. Mediation allows for as much time as necessary to consider issues before committing to a particular outcome. Mediation is non-adversarial.
4. What happens in mediation if we don’t agree?
Usually, the parties can agree to some, if not all, issues. If they cannot agree, mediation may clarify the areas of disagreement, and prepare the parties for moving the case from an informal mediation setting to a courtroom. In this event, a judge will make a decision for the parties.