The Court generally requires family law mediation before going to a hearing. This means that even if you’re sure your case won’t settle, you should make a good faith effort in mediation.
Amazing things can come out of mediation. Even if a settlement is unlikely, mediation is a great opportunity to gain information about the other side. By discussing what each side hopes to achieve, and by sharing information through settlement proposals, you can learn about the opposing party’s priorities, strengths, and weaknesses.
To get ready for family law mediation, you should think carefully about what you want to resolve in your case. You should think about your ideal resolution and decide what pieces of the case you can’t bend on, as well as where there is room for compromise. Your lawyer can help you walk through the issues so you can put together your initial proposals.
On the day of mediation, you should expect that the process will last two to four hours. If the parties are not very far apart in position, it may take an hour. If there is good progress towards a complete settlement, or if the issues are complex, mediation may take four hours. You do not have to stay if the process isn’t getting us anywhere, but set aside a few hours to give the process a chance.
Family law mediation is a voluntary and confidential process. That means you’re not bound to any agreements until everyone signs off, and if there is no settlement, the mediator cannot testify about the process. Additionally, neither party can use settlement offers from mediation against each other in Court. These guidelines are in place to give both parties an opportunity to make creative and flexible offers to attempt resolution. Mediation may not be fun, but it can lead toward individualized agreements while keeping costs low and can prevent a difficult case from going to trial.