Whether you have a divorce or other family law related matter, mediation is one of the most important steps in your case. The reason it can be the most important step is because the vast majority of family law cases settle at mediation (in fact, the vast majority of all types of cases settle at mediation).
The two main ways to end a case are (1) settlement (generally occurring at or shortly after mediation) and (2) final hearing or trial. A final hearing or trial is conducted before the judge (or in some circumstances a jury) and the judge/jury must resolve the issues. In family law cases, this means the judge/jury can be splitting up the assets and debts, establishing a parenting plan, or setting child support. This, as one former judge puts it, can be the worst-case scenario, that generally after a final hearing, the parties all leave equally disappointed in the decision.
On the other hand, when parties settle a case, the parties make all the decisions for themselves. No one knows your case better than you and your spouse/former spouse. So there is no one better to decide the case than you and your spouse/former spouse. If your case is a surgery, a mediator uses a scalpel and the judge/jury uses an ax.
So, what should you expect at this all-important mediation? The parties and their respective attorneys each sit in a conference room in the same office and the mediator will go between the rooms. The mediator will hear your story and the other side’s story, and the mediator facilitates a conversation between the two sides that is aimed at reaching a resolution to all disputes.
The mediator is a neutral, like a judge, but the mediator does not work for the Court and cannot be called to testify about what is said in settlement discussions. Also, the mediator has no “power” over your case; in other words, the mediator cannot decide anything for you or the judge. This gives the mediator and the parties a great position. The parties and their attorneys can reveal important issues and strategies in the case without worrying the other side will find out. Also, the mediator, a neutral, can evaluate the parties’ claims and give suggestions. The mediator can also give creative solutions to issues where the parties feel an impasse would be reached.
At the end of the mediation, you will have reached a settlement, you will be close to settlement subject to a bit more conversation/investigation, or you will have reached an impasse and head to a final hearing. It is important to note, even if you reached a settlement, you will not be divorced/finished with your modification at the end of that day, and, generally, you will not even have final documents. In most cases, you will sign a mediated agreement, which will be turned into final documents by the attorneys.
What should you do to prepare for mediation? There are a few preparation techniques. First, if you have not participated in discovery, the parties will often exchange informal discovery, or documents that prove minimal baseline facts like each party’s income (tax returns, paystubs), spending habits (bank statements), and special circumstances (e.g. military retirement documents, pension statements, etc.). Also, remember this is not the time to pound the war drums. The mediator has no power – so your excellent arguments about what a scumbag your ex is will not be persuasive in mediation for the most part. Mediation requires delicate dancing between understanding your position and the other side’s position and reaching a fair result. Instead of war drums, now is the time for peace and attempts to work together for the best solution.
Ask yourself: Would you rather let a total stranger decide your life or would you rather keep the control and try reach a resolution yourself?
One of the most rewarding aspects in family law is to help clients resolve their case through mediation. If you would like to book Danny Naggiar as a mediator, please contact our office at 404-816-2004 or use the live booking calendar below.