By Carolyn Torres-Mabe. Mediation is a process often used in family law cases such as divorce, modifications, legitimation, and even contempt of a prior Court Order. All issues in these types of domestic cases – division of property, child custody, child support, alimony, and remedying a contempt issue – can be addressed in mediation. So what is mediation? Mediation is a non-adversarial voluntary process where a neutral person with specific training hears the issues in a case and helps facilitate a resolution. The goal of mediation is to reach an agreement on all the issues.
There are a few guidelines that are followed in a mediation. It is a confidential process, which means that the substance of what is discussed is not allowed to be presented in court. It is also a voluntary process, so that no one can be forced to reach an agreement. Full disclosure is essential for a successful mediation. Misrepresentation can be grounds to void a mediated agreement. In mediation each person in the case is able to express his/her views, wants, fears, etc. in an informal setting without those sentiments being relayed to the court or even the other person in the case. Oftentimes the people involved in the case are in separate rooms so to encourage candid discussions with the mediator. Each person may have an attorney present with him/her during the mediation. Even if a full agreement is not reached, a partial settlement, or an agreement on some of the issues, may be reached.
A mediated agreement is preferred over a judge-directed outcome because the people involved have a hand in the terms agreed upon. Courts often require that people involved in domestic cases attend mediation and make a good faith attempt to reach an agreement. Judges are keenly aware that they only see a minute snapshot of the issues in dispute inside the courtroom and that the parties themselves know the details and background needed to make a thoughtful decision on the topics. The issues addressed in family law cases can be extremely personal. Most people find it easier to abide by an agreement reached with the other party than one decided solely by the judge.
Some cases may need several rounds of mediation before an agreement on all the issues is reached. It is certainly worth the effort. A mutually agreed upon settlement is the best way to resolve family law cases and paves the way for an amicable relationship moving forward.
Carolyn Torres-Mabe, Esq. is a mediator and lawyer who has represented clients in countless mediations. Call or email today for a free consultation.