Mediation in Family Law
Mediation is a voluntary process, where individuals meet with a neutral, independent third party, who helps them formulate their own agreement. Mediations are confidential and can have all sorts of outcomes, many which may resolve the case without the need for a trial.
Mediation DefinedMediation is a voluntary process, where individuals meet with a neutral, independent third party, who helps them formulate their own agreement. Mediations are confidential and can have all sorts of outcomes, many which may resolve the case without the need for a trial. A Judge will not be at your mediation, although you may have a former judge serving as your mediator. Remember, regardless of whether your mediator is a former judge or current attorney, they may not give you legal advice during the mediation.
The Mediator should act as a facilitator and help you focus on resolving as many issues as possible at Mediation. Sometimes mediators take an active role, other times they may be extremely passive. You will learn quickly the style of your mediator, and you should speak with your attorney about the characteristics of the mediator before the mediator is selected. If for example, your partner is a bully and has a tendency to control, you may not want a passive mediator.
What is a Caucus?Caucus (pronounced caw-cus) is a term used during the mediation to describe when the parties go into separate rooms with their individual attorneys and leave the joint session. Caucusing can be helpful when the parties are stuck on one issue, or they begin to argue. During mediation, you will be discussing some emotionally charged topics, and it may be difficult for you to address them in a joint session. You can always request to caucus during the mediation, and you should caucus during a mediation if you feel uncomfortable speaking about the specific topic in front of everyone.
Settling at MediationDuring the Mediation itself, you may not be ready to commit to a complete agreement. You should let your attorney know this. Remember, never ever ever ever sign a mediation agreement unless you are ready to commit to the terms, regardless of what you think is expected of you. Even if you feel as though the Mediator, your own attorney, or even the attorney on the other side is pressuring you to commit to an agreement, only you can decide whether you should sign or not. A Judge will not set aside a Mediation Agreement solely because you made the wrong decision or because you think in hindsight that you made a mistake by signing. Do not sign because of pressure, sign because you want to.
Preparing for MediationWhen you are at a Mediation, the time will go by faster than a blink of an eye, even if you have dedicated an entire day to the process. Mediation is stressful—you must know a lot of information and make many decisions (typically only on one day) that will impact your future long-term. Your attorney will ask you difficult questions that might need answers that very day, and you will typically not be allowed to speak with third parties during the mediation. You will feel stressed, unprepared, and scared. The key to combatting this is to have as much information ready to go BEFORE mediation and make sure to speak with your lawyer about a week in advance about strategy.