Many of us assume that if we hire an attorney to handle a divorce, custody matter, alimony, child support, etc… that those issues will be resolved in a courtroom, and probably be very time consuming and costly. Well, that is true-sometimes. However, there are alternatives to litigation- and that doesn’t mean just trying to sludge through complicated paperwork, deadlines, and service requirements on your own, without the assistance of an attorney. Family law attorneys, including Emily Edwards of Gorman Law Firm, have alternative “tools” in their toolbox to resolving domestic issues- that is, solutions that don’t involve going to a courtroom but still resolve your conflicts. One of these tools is mediation.
Mediation can be a very useful alternative to litigating a divorce from start to finish- that means any and all issues that come up when a couple decides to separate- from child custody to alimony and most everything in between.
What is mediation?
Mediation is a form of conflict resolution that does not involve a courtroom or a judge deciding what is best for you and your family. It is a neutral environment in which parties can present their positions on each issue to a mediator, who then brings those positions and concerns to the other party, and continues to do so with each issue until there is an agreement.
What types of conflicts are appropriate to resolve through mediation?
Family law conflicts, such as divorce, child custody, child support, post separation support, alimony, and equitable distribution are all issues that potentially can be resolved with mediation.
Ok, so, how does it work?
While each mediator works his or her session a little bit differently, general the format is as follows:
- The parties will meet on the designated date and at the designated time at the mediator’s office. Everyone will sit together in a room while the mediator ( sometimes an attorney, sometimes a retired judge) explains how the session will work. The mediator does not work for you or the other party. They are neutral!
- The parties generally then separate into different rooms. The mediator will go back and forth between the parties on each issue that needs resolution and present the other party’s position on each issue. Each party gets a chance to make their “case” to the mediator to give him or her some context for why they would like a certain outcome. This allows the mediator to explain to each party where the other is coming from- and if the mediator is a retired judge or seasoned courtroom attorney- maybe even give them some perspective on how this issue might be resolved if it DID actually go to court.
- Once the issues are resolved, then an agreement is written up- each party signs, and then it is notarized. That agreement is a binding contract and may become part of a court order if either party has already filed or is intending to file it with court.
So, then why should I hire an attorney if we aren’t going to court?
Hiring a family law attorney, especially one who has utilized the mediation tool, is still a wise idea if you’re considering this option. An attorney will be able to prepare you and your case for the mediation- through means such as document requests from the other party, evidence gathering, narrowing the issues, and possibly resolving some of the issues before mediation even occurs. An attorney can also assist you in presenting your case to the mediator in the best light possible, and explain legal terms, ideas, and concepts along the way. An attorney might also be able to assist you in choosing the mediator which will best suit your case. Emily Edwards of Gorman Law Firm has experience mediating cases for clients and would be happy to discuss whether this ligation alternative is right for you and your case.
Is it expensive?
Mediators generally charge by the hour- and their rates vary. While it might feel like you’re paying a lot up front for mediation services- keep in mind that litigation is VERY expensive and chances are you are saving thousands of dollars by avoiding the courtroom. It’s also important to keep in mind that often times, all of your issues can be mediated and resolved in one day- where court will take months, even years to accomplish a final resolution.
So if WE haven’t convinced you yet- keep in mind that The American Bar Association has recognized the benefits of utilizing mediation for conflict resolution:
(Taken from here.)
What Are the Advantages to Mediation?
You get to decide: The responsibility and authority for coming to an agreement remain with the people who have the conflict. The dispute is viewed as a problem to be solved. 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 tradeoffs, rather than giving that power to a judge. You need to understand your legal rights so that you can make decisions that are in your own best interests.
The focus is on needs and interests: Mediation examines the underlying causes of the problem and looks at what solutions best suit your unique needs and satisfy your interests.
For a continuing relationship: Neighbors, divorcing parents, supervisors and their employees, business partners, and family members 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.
Mediation deals with feelings: Each person is encouraged to tell his own story in his own way. Acknowledging emotions promotes movement towards settlement. Discussing both legal and personal issues can help you develop a new understanding of yourself and the other person.
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% 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. In family mediation, for example, two children, Mom, Dad and Grandma might be involved. They may need to talk about chores, school performance, curfew, allowances, discipline, and the use of the kitchen.
Faster than going to court: Years may pass before a case comes to trial, while a mediated agreement may be obtained in a couple of hours or in sessions over a few weeks.
Lower cost: The court process is expensive, and costs can exceed benefits. It may be more important to apply that money to solving the problem, to repairing damages, or to paying someone back. Mediation services are available at low cost for some types of cases. If you can’t agree, other legal options are still possible. Even a partial settlement can lessen later litigation fees.
Privacy: Unlike most court cases, which are matters of public record, most mediations are confidential.”
If you think Mediation could be right for you or your case, or are just interested in learning more about the process OR just have questions about family law at all! Call Gorman Law Firm, and ask to speak to Emily Edwards!
CONTACT OUR FIRM
If you are currently facing a family law related issue, contact Gorman Law Firm, PLLC. Our office can be reached by phone at 800-583-6602 or by completing our online contact form. Our office is open normal business hours during the week, but we provide office hours on Saturday and are available around the clock through our website. We accept all major credit cards as payment and offer services in English, Spanish and Portuguese. OR check out our website: gormanlawpractice.com!