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What Happens During Mediation?

What Is the Purpose of Mediation?

Mediation is used to resolve many different legal disputes and is often used by divorcing couples struggling to come to terms. Generally speaking, mediation is a method that utilizes a neutral, third-party mediator to help two parties resolve a legal dispute. Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and can be very helpful to individuals looking to resolve their disputes outside of court. However, it is important to remember that many legal agreements still need to be filed with the court after mediation.

Common family law matters that can be resolved in mediation include:

  • Property division
  • Debt division
  • Spousal support
  • Child support
  • Child custody
  • Visitation issues
  • Parental rights issues

Family law disputes can be very difficult to deal with, but with the help of a trained, professional mediator, you can get the guidance you need to resolve the matter once and for all.

The Benefits of Mediation

One of the main benefits of mediation is that the dispute's details and its resolution will remain private. When a matter has to be litigated in court, it becomes part of the public record. Divorce, family law matters, and other legal issues are often highly personal, and many people do not want their business made publicly available.

Other benefits of mediation include:

  • The parties involved retain control over the decision-making process
  • Mediation is less expensive than litigation
  • Mediation is a more efficient process
  • You can establish your mediation sessions around your schedule and not the court's

It is also worth noting that mediated agreements' compliance rates tend to be higher than those for court-ordered agreements. This is largely because both parties are involved in the process and can contribute to the resolution.

The Mediation Process

Though the mediation process is private, it is not informal. If you decide to go the mediation route, it is important that you secure trusted legal counsel to represent you during the process. As a neutral party, the mediator does not represent you or the other party. Each party must have their own attorney representing them.

Mediation involves several stages and is focused on dispute resolution. Adhering to the prescribed steps as laid out by your mediator is vital to the process's success. These stages provide a guiding structure and help keep the process on track and productive.

Typical stages of the mediation process include:

  • Introduction from the mediator in which the process, goals, and rules of mediation are outlined
  • Opening statements from each party outlining the problem/dispute at hand
  • A joint discussion and the opportunity to ask questions
  • Private meetings between each party and the mediator
  • Negotiation process
  • Reaching an agreement and resolution

The bulk of the mediation process is focused on negotiation between the parties. This process is most often handled while the parties are separated and meeting individually with the mediator. The mediator will go back and forth between the two parties, exchanging and discussing offers until an agreement is reached. In some cases, the mediator may bring the parties back together to negotiate jointly.

Once an agreement is reached, the mediator typically puts this agreement in writing. Both parties are then requested to sign the agreement.

What Happens if an Agreement Isn't Reached?

Even when both parties go in with the best intentions, it is not always possible to reach an agreement. This can happen for many reasons, and depending on your situation, the mediator may offer several alternatives. For example, the issue may be too involved and complicated to be handled in one session, and instead, you will need to schedule a follow-up session/s with the mediator to resolve the issue.

In other instances, the parties involved are just unable to reach an agreement at all. When this happens, the mediator or your lawyer may recommend that you take your matter before the court. Though this may not be your first choice, if mediation isn't working for you, you do not want to waste time and money on more sessions that are unlikely to resolve your problem.

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