- Family Law
Mediation is required. Nearly 100% of family law disputes are brought to court. However, it is also extremely useful, especially if you make the most of it. Mediation can be a great opportunity to resolve your case on your own terms and decrease costs and stress.
If you cannot reach an agreement before a hearing, the decision is left to a judicial officer. This judicial officer has a limited timeframe to determine what is best for you and your family. They will decide based on the information gathered during the hearing. They might order what the other side wants and what you want, but they could also order what neither you nor the other party wants.
If you resolve through mediation, you are not likely to get everything that you want, but you know you will at least be getting some of the things you want. To paraphrase, a local mediator says a mediated resolution is something neither of you wants 100%, but you can live with it.
So, how to make the most of mediation:
- Prepare. Time is short in the actual mediation session. You (or your attorney) should have a draft of a settlement proposal to the other side even before the mediation begins. Ideally, some negotiations will occur before mediation so that the issues to be discussed in mediation can be cut down to best utilize the time in mediation. You (or your attorney) should send a statement of the case and relevant pleadings to the mediator before mediation so that they will have the necessary background information before the session begins.
- Understand your position. What do you really need? What are the most important things to you? What is the least you can live with? What do you and your family need to thrive? What is the best possible outcome at trial? What is the worst possible outcome? What offers are you prepared to make? What concessions are you prepared to make? Making a plan and thinking through what could happen if you do not reach an agreement will help you make the most of mediation. Once you’ve considered those questions, break the issues into these three groups: assets/debts, parenting time/decision-making, and support.
- Keep an Open Mind. You cannot walk out of mediation with everything you want. You should know the best and worst-case scenarios going in. Be open to creative solutions. Having a plan is a great way to ensure time is used most efficiently, but the mediator will work with you (and your attorney) to craft acceptable solutions for both parties.
Sometimes the best-mediated resolutions are out-of-the-box ways to meet each side’s needs.
Of course, not every mediation can be successful, but making the most out of negotiation and mediation can set you up for success. Even settling some of the issues can decrease your trial time and, therefore, your legal fees or allow more trial time for your important remaining issues.
For more information regarding mediation, contact an experienced family law attorney at Jorgensen, Brownell & Pepin, P.C. today.