If you are dealing with a family law matter, such as divorce, you may feel overwhelmed by the thought of court appearances and all the legal aspects of your case. But did you know there is a path you can take that requires fewer courtroom visits? Mediation is a type of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) where you and the other party involved in your case employ a third-party mediator, certified and trained in areas of family law, to help you reach a settlement agreement.
What Is a Mediator?
A mediator is an unbiased third party who helps the disputing parties reach an agreement that satisfies each side, whether the issues are simple or complex. Neither an arbitrator nor judge, the mediator is trained in negotiations and will guide discussions so that both parties are heard as they work toward final agreements. A mediator looks for common ground and strives to ensure fairness and balance throughout the mediation process. However, the mediator does not decide the outcome of the settlement; only the opposing sides and their counsel finalize the agreements.
What Can Mediation Cover?
Divorcing couples can choose mediation to resolve issues that arise in their divorce, including:
- Child custody
- Child support
- Visitation schedules
- Property division
Through mediation, clients can work out the specifics of their divorce settlement on their own terms. Both parties have the opportunity to work together to create a settlement that each side can agree to instead of leaving the settlement in the hands of a judge. Without mediation or some other form of alternative dispute resolution, a judge could present either or both parties with less-than-satisfying orders that are ultimately set in stone unless appealed.
Even if you are not facing a divorce but have family matters to address, such as child custody, child support, or visitation, mediation can positively affect your agreement outcomes.
What Can I Expect from Mediation?
By choosing mediation for your divorce or family law matter, you can expect several benefits, including:
Parties who choose mediation tend to see more ideal outcomes than those who choose litigation. Mediation is one of the more popular ADR options among divorcing couples, and it produces settlement agreements that satisfy both parties up to 80% of the time. For comparison, litigation produces satisfactory settlements roughly 40% of the time. This is partly because both parties in mediation have a fair say in what they want and a balanced opportunity to work together toward their final settlement agreement.
Family law matters are not always easy, and emotions can run high throughout the entire process, even if you choose an ADR process over litigation. However, mediation can help ease contention and conflict as you and your opposing party negotiate with each other to reach an agreeable settlement. Your mediator is trained to reduce conflict and hostility and aids each side in cooperatively finalizing decisions.
Another benefit of choosing mediation is that the process saves both parties significant amounts of time. Mediation can range from two sessions to five or six sessions, depending on the complexity of the dispute. On average, it can take about six months to complete the required sessions and reach a final agreement. On the other hand, litigation can take up to two years to complete and requires far more legal fees.
While the average cost of mediation is $300 per hour, the average cost of litigation can range from $300 to $500 per hour. Even if the rates of mediation and litigation are the same for you at $300 per hour, you save thousands of dollars through mediation because of the difference in time commitment for each. The overall cost of mediation can range from $2,000 to $5,000 per person, while the overall cost for litigation can ultimately cost more than $20,000 per person.
Is Mediation Right for Everyone?
While mediation is an excellent option for the majority of divorcing couples or those in child custody disputes, there are certain circumstances where mediation is not appropriate. You may want to avoid mediation if the following applies to your relationship:
Mediation is meant to create a space for both sides to speak freely, argue their case, and work together. However, couples with a history of domestic violence usually exhibit a major power imbalance between the two. If one spouse fears the other or one spouse can greatly intimidate the other, the submissive spouse may not feel safe advocating for their side or may cave into the desires of the dominant spouse too easily. In such cases, mediation becomes a futile endeavor. However, having good attorneys to represent you can help to balance out the possible power struggle.
Fair division of your marital assets is a necessary aspect of divorce. Mediation should allow you and your spouse to agree confidently on the division of property. However, if you have suspicions that your spouse is hiding assets from you or the mediator, mediation may not be the right route to take in your divorce until you are sure that you have a full and complete picture of your assets.
If you are ready to pursue a divorce, but your spouse is not, they can significantly hinder the mediation process by canceling sessions, failing to appear, and refusing to cooperate at the meetings. In such cases, it may be best to delay mediation until both parties are ready to actively engage in the process.
If you are interested in family mediation for your divorce or family law matter, talk to the attorneys at Platt Family Law.
Rachel Platt is a certified mediator trained in family mediation, and she has nearly 20 years of experience helping her clients reach desired outcomes in mediation. Whether you are looking for an expert mediator or an attorney to represent you throughout your divorce or family law case, our firm can provide excellent counsel you can trust. Schedule a consultation with our team today: 404-255-3434