Divorce and Family Law Mediation: What to Expect

Mediation is a method of resolving disagreements outside of the courtroom with the help of a neutral third party called a mediator. For people who wish to avoid going to court, mediation can be a highly effective way of resolving the family law issues that arise during the divorce process, such as child custody or property division.

The Role of the Mediator

Unlike a traditional family law judge, a mediator does not have the authority to decide how a case will resolve. Instead, the outcome of mediation is entirely up to the people involved in the disagreement. The mediator's role is to facilitate the resolution process by helping to clarify issues and providing a structure for productive, focused communication between the parties. The mediator will make sure that each person has a chance to be heard and will help the parties to explore all of their options thoroughly.

In most cases, family law mediation involves one meeting between the parties and the mediator, often three or four hours initially but sometimes eight or more hours as circumstances require. The parties work with the mediator to identify the issues that need to be discussed and agree on a general structure for the negotiations. Next they will work together to brainstorm possible solutions for each issue and then negotiate toward a final resolution that is agreeable to everyone involved.

Benefits of Family Law Mediation

Because mediation depends on people reaching an agreement together, it is more likely to result in outcomes that are mutually satisfactory rather than simply establishing a winner and loser as is often done in court. The mediation process also allows for more creative solutions than may be possible in a typical courtroom case, and can be much faster and less expensive than going to trial.

Another valuable benefit of mediation is that, because the process is collaborative rather than competitive, it reduces animosity between the parties and can help to preserve or restore their relationship. This can be especially helpful in divorce and child custody cases in which the parties expect to have continued contact with one another long after the divorce has been granted.