If you’ve ever argued with family members or significant others, the argument can sometimes devolve past what is healthy and productive in pursuit of being right. Or the personal relationship can stand in the way of finding a helpful compromise in the argument. Mediation can be a useful tool in both of these situations. If the parties will still need to maintain a relationship past a court settlement, mediation can help find a practical solution to an issue. Family court, especially involving children, is one of the sticky situations that mediation can be helpful in.
WHAT IS A MEDIATOR?
In short, a mediator is someone who will assist parties to find an agreement suitable for both sides. Discussions including the mediator are confidential and not admissible to court in most states. This aspect allows the parties to talk freely and think more towards a practical solution, rather than defending themselves from statements or going on the offensive to prove the other party wrong.
Often, mediators have legal or mental health backgrounds as their professional training. Mediators should be neutral in their evaluation and resolution of your case. They do not judge whether the case could stand up in court; rather, they are solution oriented.
Advantages to using a mediator include the cost of mediating which can range from a few hundred dollar to several thousand, which are both less than those that would arise from a lawsuit. In most cases, judges will order the parties to mediate before bringing the case to trial.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN MEDIATION?
Mediation will only be successful if both parties are willing to work towards reaching an agreement. Mediators will continue to work with parties until a settlement can be reached or until they determine that a settlement is not possible.
Mediators can do this through many different methods, but they will largely play roles that encourage communication between the two parties. They can educate both sides as to resolution options to be considered and advise on the process. Translation of messages and feelings from one party to another, clarification of meanings and intent, and helping each side to be fully heard by the other are all parts of encouraging communication.
Mediators will point out both the strengths and weaknesses in what you are bringing to mediation. They will also be doing this with the other party. Coming to an agreement through negotiation is a process; do not be surprised if the first offers from the other party are quite a bit away from what you were hoping to settle on.
Lawyers can still be part of the mediation process. While you are looking for answers that would be a compromise, attorneys can help to advise whether your potential settlement would harm you in any way.
If the case does not settle through mediation, it is not all wasted effort. You will have learned some of what the other party was thinking, what they are hoping for in terms of settling, and areas they are willing to negotiate. Going through mediation does not forfeit your rights to a trial and that can still be a viable option.