“You shut your mouth when you’re talking to me!”
Why mediation is “actually” a good idea.
Most people view mediation as the opening scene in Wedding Crashers and other movies: where two people and their lawyers are in a room yelling at one another and getting nowhere while their lawyers struggle to keep peace and maintain their sanity. While there are a few truths to this, mediation is an effective tool used in most divorce cases to help settle property division, custody decisions, and all other issues related to family law.
The ultimate goal of mediation is to settle. Mediation typically takes place during a divorce or custody battle but can sometimes occur prior to one of the parties filing a formal lawsuit. To begin, the parties and their lawyers select a mediator to oversee the process. This mediator usually is a former lawyer or judge who has experience in the subject area the two parties are fighting.
There are multiple benefits to having a mediator involved in the process:
- Their expertise in the field can help guide individuals on their likelihood of winning on specific points,
- Their neutrality allows them to communicate openly between both sides
- The law allows them to find creative solutions to the disputes in situations where a judge would typically be limited in his or her ability to think outside the box
Once a mediator is selected, the parties attend mediation by going into separate rooms with their respective lawyers. More often than not, the individuals do not interact or even see one another while participating in mediation. Instead, the mediator serves as the middleman to communicate between both sides. At first glance, this sounds like a waste of time – why would we pay a mediator to merely deliver what I say to the other person when I am already paying my lawyer way too much to do that? A good mediator is one who can use this process to explain to both sides what legal advantages and weaknesses exist in their positions and try to tell where someone should be willing to compromise. The mediator’s ultimate goal is to bring both parties to a place where they resolve all differences, agree on a settlement, and end the case without a trial.
Some people believe that mediators are like judges and will make rulings on disputes, but that is not the case. In fact, in most cases mediation is non-binding, and there is no requirement that you agree to what the other side proposes or what the mediator suggests. You always have the right to walk away from the mediation. The factors you must consider when weighing your options of walking away versus agreeing to the settlement are what the risks are if you go to trial, how much a trial will cost in attorneys’ fees, and how willing you are to live with the compromise worked out in the settlement agreement.
Ultimately, most mediations result in both parties feeling like they gave up a lot to get a compromise. It is normal because both sides will always have in their minds what they deserve and what they feel their case is worth. As a result, it’s impossible for both sides to get what they want because there is not enough room to resolve all conflicts. Despite this, mediation provides a way for parties in a dispute to work out an agreement on their terms without spending large amounts of money on trial and risking a court making rulings that neither side can agree.
When considering or facing mediation, you need an experienced family law firm with strategic plans for preparing for mediation and knowledge of the mediators and the process.
If you have questions about whether mediation is right for you, call us, and we can help with this process. +1 (214) 494-9916