Family law mediation is a forum in which a neutral party (the mediator) meets with parties to help facilitate a settlement of the disputed issues or, in the alternative, to rule out settlement exhaustively, and help the parties reach an impasse. The mediator has no authority to make a decision or impose something upon one of the parties against their will; and the process is confidential.
There are three basic reasons that family law mediation is a good idea. First, if the mediator is successful in facilitating a resolution, the case concludes without protracted litigation. Second, most family court judges will insist that there be efforts to settle the case out of court before proceeding with trial. Third, it is a helpful trial preparation tool.
It is important to note that the latter two reasons are applicable if mediation is unsuccessful, that there is more to proceeding with mediation than getting the case settled. If you appear before the family court for trial, you are likely to be in better standing with the family court judge if the judge knows that the court’s decision is necessary, and the dispute is compelling enough not to have been resolved in mediation. The impasse reached in mediation is more meaningful than the impasse reached when a couple with communication problems stops speaking to each other.
Finally, for purposes of trial preparation, mediation allows the courtroom disputes to be narrowed, and more sharply defined. The confidential communications, while inadmissible in court, do provide some insight about the strengths and weaknesses of your case and the opposing party’s case. The family court judge who decides the case is likely to navigate through similar logic, questions and considerations that play out in the mediation sessions. The trial of a case in which mediate was unsuccessfully attempted is more effective for the parties and the court than a trial proceeding that transpires from “square one.”