When one thinks of a family law case (divorce, child custody, child support, etc.), the typical path of resolution usually involves one or more court hearings ending in a “trial”, where a judge in a black robe renders a decision for the parties involved. However, over the last two decades, a new form of resolution has taken hold in the family law arena called “mediation.”
What Is Mediation?
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution which involves a neutral, or a trained third party individual (the mediator) helping the litigants work through their disputed issues, such as child custody, visitation and child support, as cooperatively as possible so that the case is resolved by the parties reaching an agreement instead of having a judge issue an order. Mediation may be conducted any number of ways, and the facts of the case may dictate how the mediator handles the process, but in the end, mediation always involves direct input from each party in order to come to agreements on the contested issues in a case.
The “legal” purpose of mediation is to end up with a legally binding, comprehensive agreement which will be presented to the Court for approval and made an enforceable Order of the Court. However, the true goal of mediation, especially when the parties to an action share a child or children together, is to preserve the parenting relationship between two people, as much as possible, in order that they may move forward and continue to co-parent with one another.
Pitfalls of Litigation
In the litigation arena, it is not uncommon for the two sides to inflict as much “damage” as they can on each other by way of filing affidavits filled with as many horribles details and deep, dark family secrets as possible in the hope that a judge will think the other side is truly too horrible to be granted custody of anything, much less a child. If the case moves all the way to a contested trial, the parties become so invested in what they have spent on their lawyers, experts and trial preparation, that they have truly learned to hate this person whom they once loved enough to create a child with them. Even after the judgement is rendered, it can sometimes take years for those negative feelings and emotions created through the trial process to subside, creating an even more toxic co-parenting situation than existed before the trial.
Benefits of Mediation
Mediation, however, can take place without all the name-calling, accusations, shaming and public allegations of wrong-doing. The mediation process is 100% confidential, and what takes place or is said in mediation can never be used in court. This is extremely helpful for parties who may go through many emotions during the mediation process and may, at times, say things they do not mean.
The only part of mediation that is public and available for the court to review is the Final Agreement the parties are able to reach at the end of the day. As we advise our clients, mediation is a win-win. Not only do you get to maintain the control over how decisions get made in your case, rather than handing that control to a judge who does not know you or your child, but you also avoid the risk, expense, and time required for trial, along with the emotions and, sometimes, embarrassment, which can result.
The Stevens Firm, P.A. offers mediation services, and we are certified, skilled Family Court mediators. If you or someone you know is looking for a skilled mediator for your family court action, please contact our office at (864) 598-9172 for more information about scheduling your mediation session.