1. What exactly is mediation and how does it differ from arbitration?


Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) that does not require judicial determination. In other words, neither a judge nor jury can decide the outcome of your case. But rather, with the help of a qualified mediator, disputing parties are fully empowered to resolve their own conflicts. Parties locked in a dispute mutually select a neutral, third-party mediator to help them articulate problems and narrow solutions. In the process, mediators diffuse tensions, identify common ground and facilitate compromise. Mediation can be unilaterally terminated at any time for any reason, or participants can execute a legally binding final agreement that reflects the obligations of each party involved. Arbitration is also an ADR, often used by courts to settle conflict in lieu of litigation. The main difference between mediation and arbitration is that arbitrators make the final decisions between disputing parties, while mediation equips disputants to do it themselves.




2. What happens during mediation?


Once suitability has been established in previous contacts, I meet with both parties to begin the process of achieving mutually acceptable outcomes over the course of one or more sessions. Although each case is different, come general steps are as follows:

  • Orientation - at a neutral site explaining the mediation process.
  • I confirm each party's commitment to mediation.
  • I then lead participants into a format for compromise, where the parties make offers and counter offers until agreement is reached. This process is repeated for each area of dispute.
  • The last step is to execute an implementation plan, starting with preparing the final agreement. This document will detail the obligations reached during the mediation process. Each party signs the legally enforceable agreement.




3. What are the benefits to mediating a dispute?


Mediation has gained legal favor due to several key advantages, including:

  • Lower cost - mediation cost substantially less than a lawsuit, often eliminating or minimizing court and attorney fees.
  • Confidentiality - while court cases are a matter of public record, mediation is confidential. In most instances, parties can speak freely without the threat of having their statements used against them in a future lawsuit.
  • Faster processing - whether delays are caused by court backlogs or slow progress during litigation, mediation can eliminate the wait. Most mediation cases can be completed within a few sessions over a short period of time.
  • Parties have the final say - Neither a judge nor mediator decides your case. Decisions are completely made by the parties involved.
  • Parties communicate directly - Rather than communicating through attorneys only, mediators guide parties to communicate effectively and to work collaboratively to resolve the issues at hand.




4. Which types of divorces cases are best and least suited for mediation?


Although divorce mediation has experienced growing success over the past three decades, it is not a panacea. Therefore, it is not appropriate in all cases. Divorce mediation is highly effective when each party approaches it with:

  • Honesty
  • Open mindedness
  • A willingness to compromise
  • A determination to seek equitable resolution
Candidate couples that are less suitable for divorce mediation include those where one or both parties have:
  • A history of domestic violence, emotional abuse or child protection violations
  • Impaired judgement due to alcohol and/or drug addiction
  • Hidden assets to avoid discovery
  • A tendency to be highly deceptive and/or manipulative
  • A strong aversion to the mediation process




5. My ex-spouse and I cannot agree on matters concerning our children. Can a mediator really help?


Exposure to continued parental conflict can traumatically impact a child's well-being, while dissolution of the marriage can be equally injurious to their physical, mental and emotional health. By making a concerted effort to minimize hostility and disruption, divorcing parents can improve transitional outcomes for everyone involved, particularly the affected children. A professionally trained mediator can guide parents through highly contentious subjects involving child custody, child support and co-parenting schedules. Refocusing parents on the needs of their children-above their compulsion to war against each other- is precisely what mediators are trained to do. Equipped with a deep understanding of family law, stages of child development, and communications, negotiation and resolution skills, a good mediator can improve the dynamics of an acrimonious, post-divorce relationship so the interests of the children are not overshadowed.





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