Mediation is an informal process in which a neutral third-party assists with resolving conflict and finding solutions that will work for everyone. It is a voluntary process and may be used before someone resorts to a lawsuit. Mediation also may be used when a lawsuit has been filed. Below are specific descriptions of how mediation may benefit families dealing with an aging family member or families facing divorce.
In family mediation, the spouses hire a neutral third party to assist them in resolving conflict and reaching agreements. The mediation process redefines conflict as a family problem rather than one person’s problem. The emotions of divorce are managed so they do not hinder the communication process. Better communication leads to better agreements.
The mediator may or may not be a lawyer but should be trained in dispute resolution techniques. The mediator does not represent either party and cannot provide legal advice. The participants may or may not be represented by attorneys.
As with collaborative family law, the goal of the mediator is to get the people to work together in a cooperative, non-adversarial process with a mutual goal of reaching a fair settlement of all issues. This process encourages creative problem solving, win-win negotiations, and resolutions that meet the needs of all members of the family.
What Does Mediation Look Like?
The participants meet together with a neutral and objective professional who is trained to help parties solve problems in a cooperative manner. Attorneys may be present if they are representing the parties.
The mediator guides the communication process so that everyone has a chance to be heard and contribute to the outcome. The mediator helps participants define the issues and tone down the communication process so a rational discussion can take place and the best possible agreements can be reached. The mediator may offer suggestions and help parties develop options to resolve the issues, but the final agreement is defined by the parties. Some issues or all issues in a dispute may be resolved through mediation.
Role of Both Spouses
Mediation is a joint, cooperative problem solving process that only works if both spouses participate. Participants do not need to feel friendly toward one another but must be willing to work together to find solutions that will be fair and meet the needs of all family members.
Do you need an attorney?
Mediation is NOT a substitute for independent legal advice. Lawyers may still be necessary to help participants understand the law, make informed agreements and write up the final agreement. The mediator’s role is to facilitate the communication necessary to reach agreement.
Potential advantages of Family Mediation include:
When the parties are capable of fashioning their own solutions, there is shown to be a higher rate of adherence to the solution than when a solution is designed by a third party such as a judge.
Mediation can result in resolution of disputes without destroying family relationships.
This can be quite valuable when there will be a need to maintain a co-parenting relationship with the other party and/or when preserving as positive a relationship as possible is important based on a party’s values. .
The mediator may help the parties consider creative options that meet their specific circumstances.
The parties maintain control and direct involvement in the process, and are assured that neither party has to face the risk or fear of an unknown, imposed decision.
Matters involved in the case are comparatively much more private than when using litigation.
Family mediation allows parties to explore creative solutions.
Mediation is likely a lower cost solution.
Mediators in private practice usually charge by the hour and fees are typically shared by the parties. Mediation is often less costly, both emotionally and financially, than litigation..