What is mediation and how does it work in a family law case?
Being involved in a family law case, whether it be a divorce, custody, or child support matter, is emotionally and financially difficult. If your case is one that goes to trial, well now you’re facing a whole new level of emotional and financial difficulty. To say that family law trials are invasive and costly is a massive understatement. In a family law trial, your personal business - the good, bad and ugly - is put on display for all to hear, whether it be damaging pleadings filed (and forever contained) in the court’s public file (think curious kids later in life), or testimony in open court, it’s all on display for the public to hear. Trials are very stressful, anxiety-provoking, overwhelming, time consuming, and costly and the best way to avoid a trial, is to settle your case outside of court. Statistics have shown over the years that across Michigan counties, the vast majorly of family law cases settle outside of trial.
One very popular way to settle your case is through mediation. In most family courts in Michigan, the judges require mediation prior to trying a case. Mediation is a process whereby a disinterested third party, usually an attorney, meets with the parties and attorneys (if there are any) in an effort to amicably resolve the parties’ disputes. There are different types of mediation, not to be confused with arbitration which is very different, but this article will focus on the most common type of mediation.
In the process of mediation, the parties or their attorneys are asked to provide a mediation summary in advance of mediation to give the mediator the chance to prepare for mediation by reviewing the sum and substances of each parties’ position. On the day set for mediation, the parties appear in the office of the mediator, with his/her attorney, and are situated in separate rooms. The mediator begins with one party and s/he usually first explains his/her role, which simply put is to facilitate settlement discussions and NOT to make a decision on the merits. The mediator may go through that parties’ mediation summary, giving each party the opportunity to verbally give his/her position and explanation on each issue in dispute. This allows each party the chance to express themselves in an open and safe environment, free from judgment and the pressure of knowing that this person is making the decision (as would be the case before a judge in trial). Then they dive into the substance of the disputes in a discussion-type manner. Once the mediator has a solid understanding, s/he moves on to the next party and does the same. The mediator continues to “shuttle” back and forth between the parties working toward settling the issues. Once all issues are resolved, a written agreement is prepared and all parties sign, leaving only a final order needed to submit to the judge to (in most cases) conclude the case.
The vast majority of cases that go to mediation, settle at mediation. Yes, there is a fee paid to the mediator for his/her services, but it is without question substantially less costly than trial - literally and figuratively. Your private business stays private and you retain control of the process and outcome.
If you are involved in a family law case and have questions about mediation, give us a call at 866-yourrights or visit us on the web at www.yourrights.com.