Mediation is a process in which the parties work together with a neutral third party in an effort to reach an agreement. Mediation presents a unique opportunity to engage in negotiations facilitated by a mediator often before a litigation process begins. The court can order the parties to go to mediation for child custody and visitation issues. The mediation process is not for everyone, but in appropriate cases can be very beneficial.
Mediation allows the parties to direct the discussions about their case. If an agreement is reached, the parties may not need litigation at all or may only need to open a case to file their agreement with the court.
When is mediation not appropriate? If there is a domestic violence order or other order preventing contact between the parties, the parties cannot engage in mediation. In addition, although mediation is confidential, there are exceptions where a mediator is required to report information to authorities such as child or elder abuse, threats of harm, etc.
While the parties can agree to an informal exchange of financial information as part of mediation, a party is not obligated to make a full financial disclosure in mediation. As a result, if one party is not fully knowledgeable about the finances of the other party, an agreement in mediation may not address all that it should.
This process intends for the parties to communicate in an attempt to reach a resolution, but sometimes relationship dynamics make mediation less viable. If one party is intimidated by the other party or has difficulty speaking up for themselves, then the mediation process may prove to be difficult. The mediator will encourage open dialogue, but an agreement can be more favorable to a party because of their relationship and how that dynamic influences the mediation.
Finally, mediation is a process in which both parties need to come in prepared to work together in good faith to reach an agreement. If one party does not want a divorce and does not want to help that process proceed, then mediation may be premature. If one party is very set in a position and refuses to consider alternatives, mediation will not be successful. The hallmark of a successful agreement is one in which both sides have made compromises to reach agreement.