Before your family law case goes to trial, the judge will probably require you to mediate. Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution–“alternative” meaning that it is an attempt to resolve the dispute without having to resort to trial. In mediation, the parties meet with a neutral third-party, usually but not always an attorney, who is trained to help parties resolve their differences. The mediator will meet with each side–usually in separate rooms–and will go back and forth between the parties to gather information and convey offers and counter-offers. Mediators are useful because they help the parties find common ground. They will also provide valuable feedback about the strengths and weaknesses of your case. Hence, even if you don’t settle the case, you will have gained insight into your case that will help you prepare for trial.
The mediation process is entirely voluntary: no one will force you to settle the case if you don’t agree to the settlement, and no one is going to decide the case for you. If the parties are unable to reach an agreement, they simply walk away and prepare for trial. However, if the parties are able to resolve the dispute, it is likely that the parties will save significant time and money–not to mention the emotional investment–that it would otherwise take to prepare for trial.
In future posts, I will discuss more tips to help increase the likelihood that your mediation will be successful. In the meantime, if you have a question about the mediation process, feel free to leave a comment.