Family disputes are a reality of life, and some require outside assistance to resolve. When those issues relate to the dissolution of a family and the parties can’t negotiate an agreement between themselves (the “kitchen table” style agreement), it can feel like a court action is the only solution. But what if you don’t want to go to court? Family mediation can be a strong option, and there is a type of mediator that’s specifically trained to deal with family-related disputes.
Certified Family Mediator
A “Certified Family Mediator” has special knowledge of family law, and received training in the dynamics of families. Often, family mediators are or have been practicing family law lawyers. This means that they’ve spent years helping families through the grief cycle of separation and have drafted hundreds of family-related agreements. They have a clear understanding of the many issues that can arise within the family context, a broad perspective of the options, and a pretty good idea of what tends to work, and what doesn’t. This helps to ensure that any settlement reached by the parties is fair and realistic.
Disadvantages of Court as an Option
The main alternative to the parties resolving a dispute themselves or using a mediator is to go to court. Normally when going to court, both sides would engage legal counsel. Costs include fees for your counsel as well as court filing fees, potential expert witness fees, travel costs, evidence preparation costs… the list goes on. It’s likely you’ll need to wait at least four to six months before you can actually get into a court room where the judge has the authority to make an interim decision and a year or more for a trial. Once finally there, parties must abide by the decisions and solutions of the judge. There is no room for negotiation. In summary, court can be time-consuming, expensive, acrimonious and even the “winner” isn’t always happy with the details of the decision.
Cost and length of Mediation
On the other hand, family mediation can occur more quickly and can cost much less than going to court. A mediation can happen once a mediator is mutually agreed on by the parties, often within a week or two. The time required for an actual mediation differs according to each case and whether lawyers accompany the parties or not. Sometimes it can be done in as little as single long day; other times it is best to break it up into a few two or three hour sessions spaced a week or so apart. The cost for the mediation would include the mediator’s hourly rate for the time used, including any preparation time or pre-mediation meetings. Parties have the option of meeting with the mediator themselves or being accompanied by their lawyer (which would of course affect costs). The parties would split the cost of the mediator (and pay for their own counsel).
Benefits of Family Mediation
Mediation enables all parties to voice their perspectives, and to negotiate their own agreements and settlements. This gives them far more control over the outcome. But most importantly, family mediation can help with the establishment of a workable relationship between the parties. A separation or divorce agreement might result in a complete severing of the relationship; but there are some family disputes that require that the parties maintain an ongoing relationship. For example, they might need to continue to raise their children together, or they may need to continue to manage joint property. As parties in a family mediation have worked together to create a solution, it can increase the chances of a workable ongoing relationship if that is required.
If you have a family matter that you want to resolve, but don’t want to go to court, consider engaging a family law mediator to help you. It can be a faster, less expensive and less adversarial than many of the alternatives.