What is mediation?
Mediation is a way to solve a problem by two (or more) parties agreeing to come together – and work on a solution with a trained mediator. In marital separations for example, the parents decide together what is in the best interests of their children and how they will co-parent after separation. They also jointly make decisions about financial support and how they will divide up property. It is the parties who make the final decisions on these issues. The mediator is there to guide the process, set the agenda and help the parties communicate what is important to them. The mediator doesn’t make decisions for the parties.
Why should I consider mediation?
One thing I can tell you sincerely: as a family lawyer who has represented many clients in trials over custody matters, going to court takes a terrible toll on the parents, emotionally and financially. There are some matters that may not be able to settle outside of court and have to be heard by a judge. However, in disputes over custody, that should be the exception not the rule. The judge doesn’t know you or your children yet they’re tasked with making decisions about your family that will have long-term consequences for everyone. On a practical level, mediation can also be much quicker and cheaper than each party hiring a lawyer to negotiate a process that can drag on for months if not years and sometimes end up in court all the same. Many marital separations for example are mediated and an agreement drawn up and signed, within two to three months.
What types of situations can be mediated?
Disputes can arise in any number of family type situations besides marital separations and divorces: sometimes there is conflict between family members over a Will after a loved one passes away. Sometimes adult children and an elderly parent or parents cannot reach a consensus on where the parents should live and the nature of care they require. Mediation is designed to provide a process for all of the parties in those scenarios to come together willingly to try and work out their dispute respectfully and creatively. To enter mediation, all parties have to be mentally competent and entering the process voluntarily. I do screening interviews with each participant before the mediation commences to ensure that this criteria is met.