Mediation - What is it and how is it used in Family Law?

Mediation is a process designed to help litigants reach an agreement outside of Court. Some courts require mediation prior to a hearing involving temporary orders where custody and possession and access is in issue, while other courts require mediation prior to a hearing on temporary orders regardless of the issue. Many Courts require mediation prior to a final trial of a case.

In the family law mediation process, the parties will either 1. be in 2 separate rooms with their respective attorneys and the mediator goes back and forth between the rooms to assist the parties to reach an agreement or 2. the parties might meet as a group with the mediator at the beginning, then go to separate rooms to discuss the disputed issues. I believe the first option is the most prudent way to proceed with the process, since family law deals with such contentious matters.

Mediations are set for a half day, a full day or in cases involving complex/high net worth assets or complicated child related issues, a mediation could be scheduled for several days.

A mediator generally is an attorney whose role is to get the parties to reach an agreement. There can be 3 results from a mediation. 1. You come to an agreement which is memorialized by a document called a binding Mediated Settlement Agreement (MSA) which is filed with the court. An MSA is an outline of the terms of an agreement which are subsequently put into the form of an Order/Decree which is also filed with the Court. 2. You don’t come to an agreement and the mediator declares an impasse and reports that to the court; or 3. The mediator “recesses” a mediation because the mediator believes if the parties have additional time to mediate they will be able to reach an agreement.

“Peace is not absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.” - Ronald Reagan