Demystifying Mediation

Many areas of family law involve getting through difficult conversations to arrive at a sensible outcome. Whether the topic is divorce, estate planning or child custody, an attorney will often recommend that their client attend mediation.

What is mediation?

Mediation is a form of dispute resolution that aims to resolve conflicts outside of the courtroom. It is a cost-effective solution that is designed to allow people to talk in a safe environment, explaining their fears, concerns, doubts and desires with the support and guidance of a professional mediator.

The aim of mediation is to find a mutually satisfactory resolution to the issue at hand. This is achieved through facilitated communication and negotiation. Here is a look at how mediation works and why your attorney may recommend it as a potential solution to your legal problem.

Choosing a mediator

Your family law attorney may be able to recommend a mediator. Alternatively, you can select a mediator of your choice. [1] In some situations, a court may appoint a mediator to expedite a particularly complex or contentious case.

The mediation process

1. The initial meeting: Once a mediator has been chosen, all parties will convene for an initial meeting. During this session, the mediator will explain the process they will follow and establish the ground rules by which all parties must abide.

2. Issue identification: The mediator will ensure that all parties have the opportunity to discuss their concerns, interests and objectives. They will make sure that everybody gets to express their opinion and that all parties understand each person’s position.

3. Negotiation begins: Once the mediator has a clear understanding of the issues that need to be resolved, they will guide the discussion and facilitate negotiations. They may brainstorm potential solutions, explore creative alternatives and help all parties achieve a satisfactory compromise.

4. Draft an agreement: Once an agreement has been reached, the mediator will draft a written document that outlines the terms and conditions of the agreement that has been reached and have it signed by all parties. Once signed, this agreement will be legally binding and can be admissible in court.

Why mediation may be recommended

Mediation is often recommended in cases where it is challenging to reach a mutually acceptable position, court proceedings are looming, costs are escalating, or disputes are becoming more ferocious. Here are some of the reasons mediation can be a good solution.

It is cost-effective: Litigation is financially draining as attorney fees and court costs can mount up very quickly, particularly when no easy resolution exists. Mediation requires fewer hours of legal representation and court time, and a trained mediator can often help to expedite dispute resolution by reaching an acceptable compromise.

Greater flexibility: Unlike court, where times and dates are fixed in advance, mediation is a flexible process in which all parties can exert greater control over the process and tailor agreements to meet their specific needs. This can help agreements to be reached more easily.

Confidentiality is essential: Mediation sessions are confidential and no admissions made during mediation can be used in court. This means that open and honest conversations can be held, speeding up the process and improving outcomes.

Preserve relationships: In cases where relationships are in danger of being damaged beyond repair, mediation is an effective solution for maintaining relationships post-resolution.

High success rate: One of the main reasons mediation is often recommended is because of its high success rate of 86% [2]. People who have participated in mediation often report that they are more satisfied with the outcome because they have been actively involved in crafting a solution.

When mediation is useful

Mediation is useful for a number of legal matters, including:

Divorce: Particularly when a relationship has become acrimonious, mediation can help a warring couple separate joint assets, finances, debts and personal interests. It can help them to see the other’s point of view and reach acceptable compromises.

Child custody: Mediation can create a cooperative environment while challenging and emotionally complex discussions are held related to child custody arrangements. 

Estate planning: Mediation is a useful tool for resolving conflicts and disagreements between dependents, disputes over the allocation of the estate, or other issues of contention that can arise after a loved one passes away. 

In conclusion, mediation is recommended because it is a very valuable and accessible form of dispute resolution. Its cost-effectiveness, timeliness and ability to preserve relationships are all compelling reasons to choose it over traditional litigation.

To discuss your particular circumstances, get advice on selecting a mediator or find out your options in the legal conflict you are facing, please contact Lewis & Matthews, P.C. today. We will proactively guide you toward the help you need to achieve a satisfactory outcome to your case. Our experienced team is compassionate, caring and here for you.