Mediation is an Alternative Dispute Resolution mechanism that provides a cost-effective means of reaching an equitable solution while circumventing the necessity of going to court.
Consider the Costs:
Trials and hearings are expensive and time consuming, and parties often find it is in their best interests to discuss the issues in the presence of a neutral arbitrator or mediator. The court may appoint a mediator to try to resolve the a particular problem before bringing the case before the judge. When the court orders mediation, it is usually provided for no cost or low cost to the parties.
Role of a Mediator:
he mediator attempts to help the parties determine their specific interests and come to an equitable solution, but does not have the power to force a settlement. Most mediators are usually either lawyers or mental health professionals. All information revealed in an arbitration hearing or mediation session is confidential.
Types of Issues:
In divorce actions, mediators frequently evaluate visitation and custodial disputes. Mediators may also assist in financial matters such as property or child support disputes, however, parties will usually need a private mediator for these issues. Court-affiliated mediators tend to deal only with custody and visitation issues. These mediators are usually practicing attorneys, although they do not serve as attorneys in the settlement process. It is recommended for individual parties in a divorce action to have their own lawyers to approve and finalize the settlement reached during mediation.
Advantages and Disadvantages:
There are several advantages to utilizing the mediation process. First, it is quicker and cheaper than extended negotiations by attorneys or resolution by the courts. Second, effective mediation can help the parties avoid future disputes, and assist them in developing their problem-solving skills. Effective mediation can have a positive psychological impact on parties going through a difficult time. Mediation also has disadvantages in certain situations. When mediating financial issues, one party will need a lawyer if the other party is potentially hiding assets or income. Mediators do not have the legal resources of an attorney, such as the ability to subpoena documents or witnesses to obtain information. Divorces involving domestic violence also frequently create a problem for mediators. Many victims of physical abuse are unable to adequately convey and protect their own interests. Mediation may still be possible if the victim does not feel intimidated by the other party at the time of mediation, or if the mediator makes sure that the abused party's needs are met. There are now pilot programs utilized in certain counties, which permits mediation to occur at the county courthouse to protect all of the parties.
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