You might want Family Mediation if:
You’re ready to move forward and talk through the big issues that impact you and your family and feel a trained mediator can help you focus on what’s important.
Advantages of family mediation:
The details of your mediation will remain confidential, which means you’re free to be honest and discuss options.
Mediation is a fraction of the cost of a standard court proceeding. You often can resolve the issues in a day, letting you move on.
In Your Control
Judges prefer that you decide what’s best for your family and mediation gives you that chance. You decide the outcome.
About the process
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.
How to prepare for family mediation?
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.
“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.”
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 all can attend a private family law mediation?
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.
What happens at a family mediation?
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.
What happens if family mediation fails?
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.
Is a family mediation right for you?
Take the quiz to see if family mediation as a good option for you and your family.
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