When Should You Use Mediation for Your Divorce or Family Law Dispute?
Under the right circumstances, mediation can be an efficient and cost-effective tool for resolving individual differences in connection with a divorce or other family law dispute. But, it is not always the best choice, and in some cases it can even be counterproductive.
As a result, before moving forward with mediation as the primary method for resolving your divorce or dispute, we recommend that you speak with a California Certified Family Law Specialist to find out if it truly makes sense for your situation. In this article, we provide an overview of some of the basic considerations to keep in mind.
Mediation: What it Is and How it Works
Mediation is a form of “alternative dispute resolution” (ADR) that involves the parties working with an independent third-party “mediator” who tries to help them reach an agreement. In the family law context, mediation is commonly used to address differences regarding:
A mediator is not a judge–he or she does not make a decision for the mediating parties. Instead, the mediator tries to help the parties see each other’s perspectives and offers suggestions so that they can reach a compromise on their own.
The parties can work directly with a mediator; or, they can each hire an attorney to represent them. However, due to the complexities involved in most family-related legal matters, it is generally advisable to hire a lawyer to help you protect your interests in mediation.
Reasons to Stay Away from Mediation
As we mentioned above, mediation isn’t for everyone. Here are some reasons why it might not make sense to use this form of ADR:
- In order to use mediation, one of the first requirements is that both parties are committed to the process. If they aren’t, in most cases trying to mediate will be waste of both parties’ time and money.
- For mediation to work, the parties have to be capable of reaching a common ground. If the parties are too far apart or too steadfast in their positions, they may not able to achieving a voluntary resolution.
- One party is susceptible to being unduly influenced by the other party. Mediation is supposed to produce a result that works for everyone, but sometimes divorcing spouses and other family members will try to use intimidation or manipulation to get what they want to the other party’s detriment.
- People often mediate before they have all of the facts. When mediation is used purely for its cost-saving efficiencies, this can lead to spouses and other parties agreeing to terms before they have all of the information they need to make an informed decision.
Importantly, you may not always know in advance if someone is willing to undertake mediation in good faith. For example, a spouse who is out for revenge or wants to try to deplete the other spouse’s legal fund may try to use mediation as a weapon rather than a tool for compromise. This is yet another reason to be cautious about jumping into mediation.
When We Recommend Using Mediation in a Divorce or Family Law Dispute
Despite these potential drawbacks, mediation can have substantial benefits under the right circumstances. So, when do we recommend mediation?
We typically favor use of mediation in connection with litigation. What we mean by this is, rather than relying solely on mediation, it is often a more effective tool for resolving specific issues once a case is on track for trial. For example, say you are getting a divorce and you and your spouse are able to work together on a parenting plan, but are completely at odds on who gets what in terms of your assets. You may be able to mediate your custody arrangement in order to narrow down the issues that are truly in dispute.
Or, maybe your case has been on track for trial over the past several months. Now, you and your spouse have exchanged all of the key information, you’ve had time to process what is happening, and after preliminary negotiations you think you may see a light at the end of the tunnel. In this situation, you may be able to turn to mediation to structure a fully-informed and cost-effective resolution.
Do You Have Questions about Using Mediation? Contact Certified Family Law Specialist Richard M. Renkin
San Diego attorney Richard M. Renkin is a trained mediator and Certified Family Law Specialist. If you are preparing for divorce or need help resolving a child support, custody, or other family-related matter, Richard can help you understand your options and take the necessary steps to protect your legal rights. For more information, you can schedule an initial consultation by calling Renkin & Associates at (888) 837-3564 or contacting us online today.