In family law cases, mediation is a process where all parties can receive unbiased opinions and suggestions for settlement from an experienced family law mediator, meaning there is no judge making decisions for them. Couples that choose to go to mediation do so to amicably resolve their differences and avoid lengthy litigation. In a typical mediation setting, an impartial and neutral professional, the mediator, will have conversations with both parties and their counsel, separately, in hopes of assisting them in reaching a settlement.
Typically, the mediation process includes the parties, their attorneys, and the mediator. But sometimes additional professionals may attend the mediation such as an interpreter, a Guardian ad Litem, or a forensic accountant.
As previously stated, the mediator will be neutral and impartial. This means that the mediator does not represent either party and therefore does not favor one party over the other. In a mediation setting, the mediator is not a decision maker like a judge, meaning they cannot force a party to agree to anything. Almost any issue can be mediated, including but not limited to, the division of assets and liabilities, spousal support, child support and all other parenting issues, attorney’s fees, and more.Depending on the couple, some choose to engage in what is called “pre-suit mediation” which means before anything has been filed yet with the court. Couples who choose this avenue are attempting to resolve their issues before the case even begins. When it comes to mediation however, that is not the only option. In many cases, mediation is held part-way through the case or sometimes immediately prior to a final hearing as a one last effort to resolve their differences. In some cases, mediation can be held right after the entry of final judgment.
You may be asking, what are the benefits to attending mediation? Actually, there are many including:
Cost – Everyone knows a traditional divorce can cost you a hefty penny. Divorces can get lengthy and court appearances and attorney work can rack up a hefty bill. With mediation, the process is generally cheaper because your differences will get hashed out quicker and in law, time is money. That leads us to our next benefit, time!
Time – In some jurisdictions, Palm Beach County specifically, when trying to set a trial or hearing you may be looking at months down the road. This means that your divorce will be dragged out for many months, usually after a lot of time has already passed since your original filing date. When it comes to mediation however, mediators usually have the availability to schedule your mediation session in a prompt timeframe. Divorces can take months or years to reach a final judgment but settling your differences in a mediation setting will definitely be quicker.
Control of the outcome – Because in mediation the mediator does not make any decisions for you, that puts you in control of the ultimate outcome of your issues based upon negotiation and compromise rather than the imposition of an order by a judge.
It is important to note that just because you go to mediation, does not mean you need to reach a final agreement then and there. It is common for couples to go to mediation multiple times and even then, it is common to leave mediation with no resolution. Mediation is just a cheaper, quicker, and more controlling way for parties to a divorce to reach a resolution. Don’t feel pressured just because you chose the avenue of mediation and just make the decisions that are best for you.