Mediation offers an affordable alternative to resolving your family law matter without the hassle of a trial. It also allows the parties to settle the issues on their own terms, rather than having a judge who doesn't know them make the decisions. If you have a divorce, child custody, or other family law case pending, mediation should be on the table.
The family law attorneys of MacKay & Martin, LLP, can serve as either the mediator in your case or as your attorney during mediation. Our extensive experience with the mediation process has helped numerous clients settle their disputes outside of court in a way that's expeditious and fair.
What Is Mediation?
During mediation, an impartial third party known as the mediator will facilitate discussion and negotiation between the parties so they can reach an agreeable resolution. The mediator is not a judge, so cannot make a decision for the parties. Rather, the mediator's objective is to clarify the issues involved and, hopefully, talk them through their differences so they can settle the case.
Court, by contrast, is about winners and losers, arguments and counterarguments, and general animosity between the parties. Spouses and parents who cannot compromise will have to take their case before a judge. There's a lot on the line, and the judge could deliver a decision that gives you none of what you want. Mediation, on the other hand, allows the parties to arrive at mutually beneficial results without the time, stress, and additional costs of going to trial.
What Are The Benefits Of Mediation?
Besides reaching a much quicker resolution of your case – saving the hassle and expense of going to court – mediation helps the parties communicate effectively. Parties often overlook the fact that in many cases, especially those involving children, they will have to deal with each other long after the trial. If they're unable to do so amicably, there's a good chance they'll wind up before the judge again. Mediation helps parties communicate with each other so they can address issues that arise in the future.
Mediation also makes it more likely that you will get some of what you want out of a family law case. In the courtroom, the parties' relative positions have been staked and the lawyers are there to fight it out. It's nearly impossible to have positive discussions at this point. There's a good chance that you could lose everything because the opposing counsel is focused on winning the case. No matter how prepared you are for court, there's no way to guarantee the outcome of going to trial.
Mediation takes place in a confidential setting where the parties can let their guard down and discuss their issues calmly. An experienced mediator can help the parties find common ground and guide the discussions toward a more productive conclusion. Both parties have to agree to any proposed settlement, and neither can be forced to do so. But mediation makes it far more likely the case can be resolved.
Finally, it's important to bear in mind that the judge is a stranger to you and your case. Although he or she will give both sides a fair hearing, there's a good chance the judge won't fully understand the facts or your position. Conversely, mediation puts control of the case in the parties' hands. They are the ones who are most familiar with the case, so it makes sense to let them decide as much as they can for themselves. With mediation, the plaintiff and defendant can decide just about any issue the way they want to.
The Mediation Process in Family Law
Although every mediation is different, they usually follow a similar pattern. The mediation usually takes place in the more relaxed setting of a law office. The parties, their respective attorneys, and the mediator will start off in the same room. The mediator explains his or her approach and makes a few introductory remarks.
The two parties and their lawyers will then be split into separate rooms. The mediator will meet with each party and their attorney privately to find out what their concerns, goals, and relative interests and positions in the case are. Sometimes the mediator will meet with both spouses together so they can talk out their differences, although this isn't required. Eventually, the mediator will ask both sides to begin making offers to settle some or all of the issues involved, such as child custody and alimony.
During the private sessions with each party and their counsel, the mediator will often test each side's positions by asking tough or difficult questions. This is not done to upset either party, but to instead force each one to consider the risks of proceeding with litigation. If the mediator is raising an issue, there's a good chance the judge or opposing counsel will, too. The difference is that mediation offers the chance to work through these matters to everyone's benefit.
Offers, counteroffers, and additional discussions and questions will continue. Ideally, all issues will be resolved by the end, or some may be settled while others will have to go to court. For the issues that are resolved, the mediator (or one of the lawyers) will draft an initial settlement agreement, which will then be passed back and forth between the parties and their lawyers and revised accordingly. The issues that are not resolved will proceed to litigation. Even if an issue is not settled, the mediation process helps both sides refine their arguments and better understand what to expect at trial.
How Can MacKay & Martin, LLP, Help Me?
Our family law attorneys can serve as an unbiased mediator in your case. Lawyers often serve as private mediators, but when they do so, they are ethically obligated to not side with either party. On the other hand, you may wish to retain us as your legal counsel during mediation. In either event, we understand California family law and have dealt extensively with every issue from child support to property and debt division.
If mediation is on the horizon in your case, call MacKay & Martin, LLP to learn more about how we can serve you.