The Mediation Process
Mediation is a process whereby the parties are given the opportunity to resolve their case without the need of litigating their issues before the court in a contested hearing. In some circumstances, the parties are able to resolve their case in full or in part by entering into a binding settlement agreement. The courts typically require the parties to attend mediation prior to allowing the parties the opportunity of bringing a contested issue before the court for resolution.
The mediator is typically an individual who is court certified as a mediator and/or an attorney who is familiar with family law matters. The mediator does not have the authority to make any rulings or determinations for the parties concerning the case. However, the mediator controls the mediation process and the mediator attempts to facilitate the parties with reaching an agreement. The mediator is not permitted to offer either party any form of legal advice. The parties usually attend the mediation with their attorneys who are there to advise their respective clients on the law concerning their issues.
With limited exceptions, the matters discussed and addressed during mediation are confidential and cannot be used against either party in court. As such, the parties are generally encouraged to engage in open and free communication in an effort to obtain an agreement. Often times if an agreement is reached, the mediator, with the assistance and guidance of the parties’ attorneys, drafts an agreement that is signed by the parties’ at mediation. The mediation agreement is then filed with the court and an Order is entered by the court that approves and incorporates the parties’ mediation agreement.
If successful, mediation can and often results in the parties’ saving significant dollars in attorney’s fees and costs. Mediation affords the parties the opportunity to be creative with the resolution of their case and allows the parties to achieve certainty of the outcome as opposed to placing the decision-making authority with the court.