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Family Mediation Lawyer in Washington State

What is Family Mediation

Family mediation gives people the ability to resolve family issues in a private setting with the help of an unbiased person. A common reason to seek mediation is a pending divorce, an undecided parenting plan or a possible legal separation. Mediation can be voluntary (chosen proactively by the parties) or involuntary (required by the court). In both cases, mediation gives people the opportunity to choose the best outcome for their family before a judge is forced to decide for them.

A family mediation typically takes one of two forms. It can be a shuttle mediation where the parties negotiate from separate rooms. Otherwise it can be a facilitative mediation where the participants sit at the same table and communicate face to face.

In a shuttle mediation, each participant has a room to themselves and the mediator will go between the rooms communicating for the parties. In most cases each person is joined by an attorney who will help them make decisions and evaluate the offers. The mediator will take a direct approach and often suggest solutions. Suggestions will be based on their experience and opinions on what a court would decide if given similar facts.

Facilitative mediation will begin with a short introduction from the mediator describing the process. Afterwards each person will have an opportunity to talk about why they chose to attend and what they hope to accomplish. Then discussions will begin, where the mediator will guide the conversation based on each person’s goals for the session. Solutions are typically provided by the participants only. At the end of the session, ideally agreements are reached and the mediator can later put that in writing.

Family Mediation for Privacy and Peace of Mind

Family mediation is often better than going to court in disputes concerning family relationships. This is because it offers a more tailored approach, allowing parties to focus on their own needs and those of any children involved. 

It can also help reduce conflict, encouraging open dialogue and constructive problem-solving rather than adversarial competition. Furthermore, family mediation is faster and less costly than other forms of dispute resolution such as litigation or arbitration.

This means that by choosing family mediation, parties are able to save time, money, and energy which would otherwise be spent reaching an agreement in court. Additionally, the process allows for greater privacy compared to other methods of dispute resolution—conversations in mediation remain confidential so that personal information cannot be publicly disclosed. 

Ultimately, a family mediator can help to build understanding and restore relationships while still resolving disputes in an effective, cost-efficient way. As such, it is often the better option for families who are facing difficult times and need to find a solution that works best for everyone involved.

Justin W. Aanenson, Attorney

Major Benefits of Family Mediation

Family mediation is a great tool to give you ownership over your family’s future.

Confidential

Mediation is completely private. The details of your mediation will remain confidential, which means you’re free to be honest and discuss options.

Flexible

The process can be tailored to the needs of each family and any issues that arise in relation to children.

Low Cost

Mediation is significantly cheaper than going to court, and faster too. Mediation is a fraction of the cost of a standard court proceeding. You can often resolve the issues in a day, letting you move on.

Improved Relationships

It encourages open dialogue between all parties so that agreements that are satisfactory for everyone can be reached.

In Your Control

Judges prefer that you decide what’s best for your family and mediation gives you that chance. You decide the outcome.

What to expect from Family Mediation

During a family mediation session expect to dig into the issues. It may not be the most pleasant conversation you ever have, but it can be incredibly productive. If done right, you’ll leave with an agreement in hand that you had a direct role in shaping.

If a person has a felony conviction for child abuse or neglect, spousal abuse, a crime against a child, or a crime involving violence they are permanently disqualified.

Similarly, a person will not pass the home study if they’ve been convicted of a physical assault, sex offense, or a felony not listed above in the past five years.

Preparing for mediation can make the difference between leaving the session with an agreement or work to do. If you have a mediation scheduled here are three things you can do to prepare.

 

First, gather information. You don’t want to waste time during mediation fact finding, so look up the information you’ll need to make decisions ahead of time. For example, if you’re dividing property find out the current value of your major assets. Similarly, if you’re working on child support check your bank and credit card statements for the monthly expenses you pay for the kids.
Second, once you’ve gone through the process of gathering information organize it and bring copies. If you’re in mediation you’re likely working through some big issues. If you have the facts handy not only will it help you stay focused on the big picture, but it can help your mediator and the other party.

 

Third, make time to brainstorm some solutions prior to the session. Spending thirty minutes writing down possible options not only puts you in the right mindset, but can give you a starting place for discussions. While you’re doing this try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. You’ll make the biggest breakthroughs once you understand their perspective because it will allow you to problem solve for both of you.

Who can attend a family law mediation is up to the participants. Since mediations often involve personal issues and require open discussion to be successful it’s important that everyone is comfortable with the people in the room.

 

An outsider who comes to a mediation is referred to as a support person. The most common support person in mediation is an attorney. Attorneys are especially helpful in shuttle mediation, where the participants negotiate from different rooms and the mediator goes back and forth between them. They can be less helpful if the mediation is in one room, since they have a tendency to get too involved, which can sidetrack the participants. Other common support persons include parents, siblings, significant others and pastors.

 

Support persons can be very helpful in mediation, but at the same time they can derail all progress. If you’d like to bring someone it’s important to think about how they will assist you in the process. Remember to reach out to the other participant and your mediator prior to the session to ask for permission to bring someone.

Mediation is non-binding, which means that you aren’t required to leave the session with a resolution. If mediation fails the people have one of two options. They can drop the case and walk away. Otherwise they can take the dispute to court.

 

In Washington family disputes, most parties are required to mediate before they have a chance to go to trial. Court’s prefer, especially in family cases, for people to choose what’s best without court involvement. This is important to understand because even if your mediation fails, it is a required step in the legal process to get a final outcome.

We service clients all across Washington including places such as: Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond, Shoreline, Edmonds, Lynnwood, Renton, Lakewood, Federal Way, Tumwater, Lacey and South Bay.

Our three offices are located in Seattle, Olympia & Tacoma.

Testimonials & reviews

Sart
Sart
2024-05-17
A family law firm that often settles out of court with "win, win" solutions for all involved. Resolve the matter instead of fighting in court where only the lawyers win.
Kate Winterbottom
Kate Winterbottom
2024-05-02
Justin, the owner of Truce Law, is truly exceptional in every sense. His unwavering dedication to customer satisfaction and employee success sets him apart as a leader in the legal community. Justin goes above and beyond to ensure that each client receives personalized attention and support throughout the divorce or adoption process. His expertise in family law combined with his genuine empathy and understanding make him a trusted advocate for those navigating difficult life transitions. I would not hesitate to refer clients to Justin. Moreover, Justin's commitment to employee success is evident in the positive and supportive work environment he cultivates at Truce Law. By prioritizing the well-being and professional growth of his team, Justin ensures that every member is equipped to deliver exceptional service to clients. I have full confidence in Justin and his team to handle even the most complex family law matters with integrity, compassion, and skill. If you're seeking legal assistance for divorce or adoption, look no further than Justin and Truce Law. You'll be in the best hands possible.
Jeff Bloomfield
Jeff Bloomfield
2024-05-01
The team at Truce Law are conscientious and dedicated to truly serving their clients well. I would not hesitate to recommend Truce Law for your Family Law Needs.
Dan Peterson
Dan Peterson
2024-03-08
Breaking up is hard. I was an emotional wreck at times. The staff at Truce Law was compassionate and patient; they walked me through it. My opponent was vicious. Truce handled the negotiations with strength, competence, and dignity. Look no further.
David Singleton
David Singleton
2023-12-14
Truce Law is simply the best! Divorce is never easy for anyone but having them on your side makes it a whole lot easier! The team was always prompt, communicative and always had my best interests in mind. 10/10!
Stefanie Arnold
Stefanie Arnold
2023-08-07
Justin and staff were a great resource through my divorce, highly recommended
Hristiyan Kolev
Hristiyan Kolev
2023-05-26
First of all I would like to thank to Justin for his great work! My case was not easy (don’t want to use the word ugly), but thanks to Justin and his team I manage to win the case and being able to be with my child once again which was the goal from the beginning. The process of the divorce took more than a year and he and his team were with me the whole time. Very patient, persistent and knowledgeable. I will always recommend his service. Good luck to everyone out there.
Russ Krause
Russ Krause
2023-04-19
If you are looking for a friendly and knowledgeable as well as highly skilled legal team to help you through those family law issues that come up in life, then Truce Law is the place! Competent and friendly staff at all levels puts you at ease. Their rates are very competitive and they are always in communication with you to keep you on top of what they are doing. I highly recommend them to you.

If you’re like most of my clients, you want an easy, private divorce process that is low-stress. The problem is you don’t know how to achieve that. Divorce mediation is the most simple solution.

Why should you work with a family mediator? Mediation is required in most counties for family law cases, so often it’s in your best interest to start with mediation and see if an agreement is possible. People that mediate within the first thirty days of a conflict end up resolving their issues in less time and typically spend less money than those who put it off. Through mediation I’ve seen entire divorces completed without anyone ever setting foot in a courtroom.

Many people view mediation as the last resort before trial, but from my experience as a mediator, I think you should consider it from the beginning. If you’re interested in learning more about how a mediator can help you, this article will explore Washington mediation in depth. Ideally you will understand the process, the different forms of mediation, and you’ll be able to decide if mediation is a good option for you.

Table of Contents

  • Types of Mediation
  • Benefits of Mediation
  • How to know if you are a good fit for mediation
  • Drawbacks to mediation
  • Mediation process
  • Mediation length
  • Mediation costs

Types of Mediation

There are three different types of mediation: transformative, facilitative and evaluative. Each style has its strengths and weaknesses. Here’s a guide to help you know what type might be right for you.

Transformative Mediation

A mediator with a transformative approach focuses on empowerment and recognition rather than problem solving. The goal is to change how each party responds to conflict. The mediator focuses on how the parties talk to each other, rather than the specific issues.

Transformative mediation is usually a part of any mediation, whatever the style. The mediator wants both parties to be heard and to understand and feel accepted in their perspective. Once both parties feel understood, then the mediator and the parties can explore a range of choices as well as a better understanding of each other’s perspective.

Evaluative Mediation

Evaluative mediators focus on the issues, rather than the feelings. When people hire me they often expect this to be my preferred style, since it is the style of many attorney mediators.

As an evaluative mediator you take the role of an expert.  You try to problem solve and create solutions for the participants. Often the mediator will make recommendations based on the law or past experience.

This style anchors the participants around precedent in the law, rather than what the participants feel is fair based on their circumstances. It can be useful in complex cases and situations where each person feels it’s best if a judge just decided. The major drawback to evaluative mediation is that participants often feel less satisfied with the outcome, since agreements are based on mediator recommendations opposed to the parties’ solutions.

Facilitative Mediation

A facilitative mediator doesn’t focus on the law or past experience, but instead encourages the participants to find solutions that work for their situation. The mediator works to find the underlying interests for each party. For example, do they want a settlement that is fair or are they worried most about safety and security? Once these interests are identified, the parties generate options that help each party reach the goals that are most important to them.

With this method, a mediator won’t make recommendations or weigh in based on their expertise. It is up to participants to find their own solution. However, a good facilitative mediator will reality test any proposed agreement. This means you’ll be asked questions, which will force you to evaluate the strength of your plan in the real world. Often this leads participants to tweak their initial agreements and make them stronger.

The major drawback to facilitative mediation is that those involved could reach an agreement, which goes against what a judge would rule. In these cases, the agreement is still valid and enforceable, but one party may have achieved a better result in court.

On the other hand, since the agreement is created by the participants it is tailored to their situation. Parties who reach an agreement through facilitative mediation generally have a higher level of satisfaction with the outcome, since the negotiations are based on their lives and circumstances, instead of prior court rulings.

Most mediators combine elements of these styles. When interviewing potential mediators, ask what style they prefer and find out why they think that form of mediation would work well for you.

Benefits of Mediation

Efficiency and support are the major benefits to divorce with a mediator or mediator team. The biggest step in your divorce is coming to an agreement. A mediator can help you avoid having the same fights over and over.

The mediator will identify your goals and concerns and help you both support each other through a discussion of how to manage these in a fair process. Mediation is more productive because your discussions will stay focused. Mediation also allows both parties to be sure that they cover everything. Both partners will get equal time. This is more fair and in the long run, saves time.

In addition to saving time, mediation allows both parties to feel more positive about the end of their relationship. Change is hard. In mediation, the partners can work out their differences and know that they both did their best to understand and to be fair to the other side. Most people are surprised by how much better they feel at the end of the mediation process.

How do I know if we are a good fit with mediation?

There are four requirements to mediate, which must be met by both parties. The following requirements are specific to divorce, but can also give you insight into other issues, such as parenting plan decisions and support payments.

First, both parties can recognize that there is a divorce pending. Your mediator cannot break up with your spouse for you. Mediation is best handled after both partners agree to separate, and want to focus on the most fair way for the divorce to happen.

Second, both parties are willing to mediate in good faith. Mediation is an equal process. Both parties must be willing to accept that a fair result might not end with everything that one partner wants. In most situations, both parties get some of what they want, and both parties give up a little bit too. Mediation only works if both of you can be open and understanding about areas where you might not both want the same thing.

Third, both parties must be willing to keep to the terms of an agreement. Your mediation can be enforced in court, if you both agree to sign the required paperwork. However, for the most part it will be up to you to follow through with your agreement. If you participate in mediation you have to be willing to follow through with the results.

Fourth, both parties must participate voluntarily. Mediation is an amazing process, and most couples are very happy they stayed out of court, but one party cannot force another party to mediate. Mediation only works if both parties agree to take part and want to work out their agreements together.

Drawbacks to Mediation

Mediation may not be for everyone. As discussed above, both parties must be willing to work with each other. If one party feels coerced or controlled, then the mediation will fall apart, and the parties will end up in court anyway.

Mediation requires the parties to take control of what they want, and to accept responsibility for their own outcomes. The parties can’t blame each other. They share ownership of the process. Not everyone needs or wants to talk about their situation before they leave the marriage.

Procedurally, mediation can also be a little bit different than a typical lawsuit. Washington Rules of Professional Conduct require the mediator to advise the parties to hire an attorney to review the agreement before it’s filed in court. This is optional, but it’s a good step because it can help avoid any conflict of interest.

The Mediation Process

The mediation process is different for each mediator, but at Truce Law our mediation process takes place in seven phases.

Intake

Prior, to any mediation you’ll complete a short questionnaire. Your answers will give your mediators a sense of the issues and what to expect during the session. Try to be honest about not only the issues holding you back from reaching an agreement, but also what you think is difficult for the other participant. Filling out these initial forms often helps people identify the other party’s position, which is the first step to reaching a settlement.

Mediator Opening Statements

Mediation begins with a short speech from the mediators outlining the process. This opening statement will give you a chance to meet your mediators and hopefully get comfortable the process. You’ll have a chance to ask questions and your mediators will set expectations.

Participant Initial Statements

After the opening statement, both participants will have a chance to make initial statements. This should be uninterrupted time for each person to communicate the issue from their point of view. Sometimes participants have a hard time not interrupting. However, it’s important to remember that this time is really important for the mediators, since it lets them see the issue from each side. Both parties will have an equal opportunity to share their perspective.

Agenda Building

After each person has shared it is time to build an agenda. The agenda is made up of specific items proposed by the parties that will be discussed. For example, one person may ask to discuss the retirement accounts and the other may request parenting time. We’ll write down this agenda and refer back to it throughout the process. Ideally we’ll focus on one agenda item at a time, moving to the next once we’ve resolved the first.

Negotiations

Once the agenda is created, we’ll choose an item and both parties will begin negotiations. This is the brainstorming stage. The mediators will be there to encourage communication and ensure the parties are treating each other with respect, but the bulk of the negotiation is carried by the participants.

Caucus

If at any time the mediators feel a break is necessary they may call a caucus. During a caucus, one person will leave the room, while the other stays and speaks with the mediators one on one.

A caucus is a chance for the mediators to meet with each person individually and discuss how things are going and what could go better. Any items discussed during caucus will be kept confidential by the mediators. However, participants are allowed to bring up what was discussed once the full group is rejoined. Both parties will have a chance to meet individually with the mediators during this stage.

Settlement

Lastly, once negotiations are complete we put together a settlement agreement. This document outlines any agreement made and participants have the option to submit it in court if they both agree. The documents prepared at the conclusion of a mediation session will be rather informal, but cover all agreements reached by the parties.

If the parties choose to do so, an attorney can prepare formal legal documents for the court that each party will sign. For example, in King County, a divorce will require family law forms 201, 001, 241, 231, 140, 130, and a vital statistics form, as well as a declaration for the court.

Many attorneys help parties work out a CR2A or settlement agreement that will be kept private. This agreement, and a debts/asset spreadsheet, divides any money, property, and assets. This agreement is NOT filed with the court. It is kept private unless the parties have a dispute, and one former partner files the agreement in court in order to enforce its terms against the other partner. The separation agreement, or CR2A, is a contract that’s enforceable like any other contract.

To file the documents with a court, either the parties or an attorney can take the agreement to court. Uncontested divorces are settled in the Ex Parte Department.

How Long Will Mediation Take?

The length of mediation will depend on the issues and what the parties are trying to accomplish. For example, a three hour session meets the court’s mandatory mediation requirements and typically is enough time for participants to resolve their issues.

In some cases, people want more time and can commit to full day sessions. They can get long, but if both parties are committed to resolving the issues it can be a rewarding day.

On the other hand, multiple half day sessions can be productive. We typically target one or two agenda items per session and the short sessions gives everyone a chance to regroup before the next meeting. It’s really up to the individuals.

We also offer recurring sessions for parents. Similar to an annual checkup at the doctor, parents can meet with us once a year to go over parenting and support and discuss if any changes should be made. This can save parents money, since it’s an easy way to stay aware of the issues. It also helps them find solutions for each upcoming year, instead of feeling like they need to make changes through the court. Lastly, it keeps the relationship between both parents amicable.

What Will Mediation Cost?

The cost of your mediation depends mostly on how much time you spend in the process. Most mediators charge an hourly rate. In King County, attorney mediators will likely range from three to four hundred dollars an hour.

Conclusion

I hope this gave you an understanding of how mediation can help you reach a fair settlement on your terms. If you’d like help with your mediation, please call Truce Law at 206.409.4086 or send us a message. Thanks for reading.

Cheers,
Elizabeth

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