Divorce and Family Mediation

Mediation in one form or another has been successfully used to resolve disputes ever since humans first organized themselves in social groups. The idea of talking it out (mediation) rather than fighting it out (litigation) has been used to negotiate satisfactory settlements, whether between two children in a playground squabble or between powerful nations capable of destroying each other. While some disputes may not be amenable to the mediation process, most divorce and other family related matters are ideally suited for mediation.

Divorce/Family mediation is a voluntary process in which the parties meet together with an attorney mediator or mediation team. The environment created in mediation supports mutually resolving issues of property and debt division, living arrangements for the children and appropriate financial support. The mediation process is carefully structured and task oriented. The parties agree to work within a set of guidelines designed to focus the interactions on the settlement issues. The attorney mediator acts in an impartial capacity, representing neither party but providing all the information and options necessary for the parties to make their own decisions. The mediator does not specifically advise either party about what particular decisions to make but encourages them to take full responsibility for their own settlement decisions. Mediators take the position that the mediation clients are in the best position to know and to assert their own needs and desires. The point of the process is to help the parties cooperatively reach an agreement that fits their own unique circumstances. Once agreement is reached, the attorney mediator will draft all necessary legal documents and court orders to complete the legal process.

Mediation in the area of family law has arisen in response to a need felt by clients, lawyers, judges and counselors who have been involved in the traditional adversary legal system and found its competitive foundation to be an inappropriate base upon which to resolve divorce and other family disputes. The price paid is often high when judges are used as decision-makers and lawyers are used as negotiating surrogates. Frequently court decisions and lawyer negotiated settlements are bitterly contested for years after the “final” orders are made.

With the use of a qualified mediator and adherence to a sound set of guidelines and ethical standards mediation can be a highly effective and cost-savings way to resolve divorce and other family disputes.