Mediation is a smart option for people who are not yet ready to file for divorce or say goodbye to their marriage. When a couple chooses mediation, they come together to select a neutral, trained mediator who is equipped to facilitate their discussions towards resolution of any number of family law issues.
In many cases, people choose to use their attorney’s office as the space for mediation. The mediator’s job is to help the disputants evaluate their current stance, goals, and objectives and encourage them to discover their own solution mutually.
When a couple chooses mediation, they are acknowledging that they are committed to finding a solution that they can both live with and trust. The mediation process focuses on solving problems, not necessarily taking legal action or deciding which spouse is right or wrong.
It is important to note that this approach is extremely different than the one the court would take. In court, the main objective is to determine who was right or wrong and move forward from there. The mediator will have no authority to impose a decision, award one spouse, or penalize the other. Instead, the goal is to reduce the likelihood of one party taking an extreme position and creating animosity. Keep in mind that if no resolution is found during the mediation process, either spouse is able to sue.
The mediation process can differ slightly, depending on the particular case and people involved. This process is far less formal than a trial and typically follows these steps:
- Initial Meeting. The couple will meet with the mediator for an initial meeting. The mediator will go over the goals and rules of the process and encourage the couple to work together towards a solution.
- Opening Statements. Each disputant is asked to describe what the dispute is about, how it has affected he or she, and what ideas they have about resolving it. This is a time of respect, and each party is asked to refrain from interrupting while the other is speaking.
- Joint Discussion. If appropriate, the mediator will encourage the parties to speak directly to one another about what was said in the opening statements. This will give a better idea of what issues need to be addressed.
- Private Meetings. Each party is given the opportunity to meet privately with the mediator in order to discuss their side, position, and present any new ideas for settlement. Sometimes only one meeting is necessary, whereas other cases require several private meetings.
- Joint Negotiation. Once the meetings have been completed, the mediator will bring the couple back together to negotiate directly.
- The End of Mediation. If an agreement has been made, the mediator will put it in writing and ask each side to sign it or take it to their lawyers for review. If no agreement was reached, the mediator may suggest other options, such as meeting at a later time or going to court.