Jim Forrester has practiced all aspects of family law since 2009. A significant portion of Jim’s practice now includes family law mediation wherein Jim works with both parties to help them resolve their case without the stress and expense of going to court. If the parties are able to reach an agreement in mediation, then Jim’s litigation experience and his involvement in complex real estate and business transactions provides him with the ability to draft settlement documents that the court will accept and that will withstand the test of time.
- Mediation takes place outside of court with a private mediator.
- Mediation can save you money.
- Mediation allows you to resolve your case without waiting months for a court date.
- Mediation allows you and the other person to determine the outcome of your case instead of a judge who is unfamiliar with you and your particular situation.
- Mediation lets you and the other person plan for the future and maintain a positive relationship.
- Mediation is becoming a very popular way to resolve family law issues.
What are the advantages of Mediation?
You get to decide: The responsibility and authority for coming to an agreement remain with the people who have the conflict. The mediator doesn’t make the decisions, and you don’t need to “take your chances” in the courtroom. Many individuals prefer making their own choices when there are complex trade-offs, rather than giving that power to a judge.
Fosters continuing relationships: Particularly where children are involved, parents will have to continue to deal with each other cooperatively. Going to court can divide people and increase hostility. Mediation looks to the future. It helps end the problem, not the relationship.
Higher satisfaction: Participants in mediation report higher satisfaction rates than people who go to court. Because of their active involvement, they have a higher commitment to upholding the settlement than people who have a judge decide for them. Mediations end in agreement 70 to 80 percent of the time and have high rates of compliance.
Informality: Mediation can be a less intimidating process than going to court. Since there are no strict rules of procedure, this flexibility allows the people involved to find the best path to agreement. Mediation can deal with multiple parties and a variety of issues at one time. And, mediation can include resolution of issues typically not dealt with by judges, such as pets, relationships with extended family, etc.
Faster than going to court: Months, and sometimes years, may pass before a case is resolved by a court trial, while a mediated agreement may be obtained in a short period of time.
Lower cost: The court process is expensive – a divorce can often cost each party $10,000 to $40,000, and occasionally more. In mediation, it becomes obvious fairly quickly whether resolution is likely. Even a partial settlement reached in mediation can lessen later litigation fees.
Privacy: Unlike most court cases, which are matters of public record, mediation is confidential. Only the final agreement becomes public record, and that only occurs in divorces or other situations where ratification by a court is necessary.
How does mediation work?
Generally, mediation proceeds as follows:
1. Initial Joint Meeting: Both parties attend an initial joint session during which questions about mediation are answered and the mediator is provided with an overview of the situation bringing the parties to mediation. In simple disputes, the parties can often resolve their case during the first meeting, though that is unlikely in more complex cases. An overall plan for resolving issues is formulated by the parties and the mediator.
2. Individual Meetings: Usually, the mediator meets with each party privately at the beginning of the second session. This provides each party with an opportunity to advise the mediator of any special issues or concerns that the party feels more comfortable discussing without other parties present. The content of these “caucus” sessions is generally kept confidential, unless the parties and the mediator agree otherwise.
3. Identifying Issues & Exploring Solutions: The mediator assists the parties in identifying issues and areas of agreement. The mediator then assists the parties in developing solutions for areas in which there is not initial agreement. Typically, issues in need of resolution are grouped and organized so that a limited number of issues are the focus of each meeting. For example, in a divorce, the second session may focus on parenting issues; the third on property and debt distribution; and the fourth on cash flow issues such as child and spousal support.
4. Writing an Agreement: As a tentative agreement is reached on each set of issues, the mediator prepares a draft summarizing the tentative agreements. These tentative agreements can be reviewed and revised in subsequent mediation sessions. These partial, tentative agreements are the building blocks for a final, formal signed agreement. Unless the parties agree otherwise, there is not a binding agreement on any issue until there is agreement on all issues the parties are needing to resolve. Once there is final agreement on all issues, the agreement can be, if appropriate, submitted to the court for ratification.