Mediation’s Role In Legal Cases
In its simplest form, mediation is a process in which parties in conflict work with a neutral third party to reach an agreement. It is a voluntary, private process where a neutral third person -called a mediator- helps the parties discuss and try to resolve the dispute. It is a structured process of negotiation where the parties have the opportunity to describe the issues; discuss their interests, understandings, and feelings; provide each other with information; and explore ideas for the resolution of the dispute. The mediator facilitates the resolution of the parties’ disputes by supervising the exchange of information and the bargaining process. The mediator helps the parties find common ground and deal with unrealistic expectations. He or she may also offer creative solutions and assist in drafting a final settlement.
The role of the mediator is to interpret concerns, relay information between the parties, frame issues, and define the problems. The mediator does not have the power to make any decisions for the parties, but can hopefully help the parties find a resolution that is mutually acceptable. The only people who can resolve the dispute in mediation are the parties themselves.
What types of cases can use mediation?
Mediation is used in divorce cases, guardianship cases, paternity disputes, parenting cases, estate contests, contempt proceedings, relocation disagreements, changes to parenting plans, parenting disputes, enforcement of decrees, alimony and child support, and numerous other conflicts. Parties have used mediation to set forth ground rules for trial separations, and as an outline to explore reconciliations. Mediation has even been used to help parties, both married and divorced, reach agreements on college education funding and the support of adult children.
What is the difference between hiring us as mediators vs legal counsel
We work with clients in both our capacities as mediators and attorneys. How those relationships begin and what they look like are different depending on the role.
If our role is to assist you as attorneys, we will just meet with one party and will be acting as that person’s advocate and lawyer. We will talk with you about your needs and how we can best help you as your lawyer in this process. Our job will be to give you legal advice and specifically advise you on your rights and options. This can vary from simply coaching you before you meet with your spouse to attending mediation with you as your counsel and representing you through to document filing. At our first meeting we will work together to determine what your needs are, how we can best meet your needs and what role you would like us to play.
If our role is as a neutral mediator then we are working with the parties as a group or couple. Our job is to be a neutral party in the process and to help you work together to make decisions. We cannot offer legal advice to any of the parties and cannot advise you on what decision to make. We can offer you legal information and walk you step by step through the issues and decisions in your case. We will help create a respectful and private process for you to determine for yourselves what this transition will look like for your family.
It is important that if you are looking for us to act as a mediator, that we are neutral from the beginning. For that reason, we cannot act as an attorney and then become your mediator.
In our role as a mediator, we are able to take the agreements you reach and use them to prepare all of the documents needed for the court.