Mediation is a tool used by the courts in many types of family law cases. It is used during the divorce process, to settle disputes between two parents that are not married and to settle matters between the parties after the divorce is over. The role of a mediator is to be a neutral party that can be objective, and help you and your spouse or child’s parent communicate effectively and find a way to meet in the middle, so to speak. When you file a case in the family court, you are usually automatically ordered to attend a session of mediation with a court appointed mediator. In other cases, you and the opposing party can hire a private mediator, who is usually a retired judge or a very experienced attorney. Let’s take a look at a few scenarios and see how mediation could be of use. Perhaps you find yourself in a similar situation.
During the Divorce Process
Scenario: You and your spouse cannot agree on custody and placement of the children, and the court has ordered you to attend a mediation session. This is a setting in which a mediator can help you and your spouse communicate as to what the best interests of your children are. You do not have to come to an agreement in mediation. In fact, in many contested cases, mediation fails because one party is overly demanding, and was never going to come to an agreement anyway. If this is the case, the court will most likely order a Guardian ad Litem to be appointed to your case. A Guardian ad Litem is an attorney that is appointed to represent the best interests of the children in a custody or placement dispute.
Scenario: You and your spouse are attempting to divide your assets fairly on your own, without going to trial. This is difficult, because communication during the divorce process is very strained. Either party can request mediation through the courts. Once the court appoints a mediator, they can assist you and your spouse, with or without your attorneys present, come to an agreement on your property division. You are not obligated to agree to something you feel pressured into or are not happy with. In this case, you and your attorney will have to decide if it is in your best interests to start making some concessions, or you may decide that you are going to take your chances at trial with an experienced trial attorney and let the judge decide.
Scenario: You had a child out of wedlock, and now you and the other parent are struggling to co-parent your child. You are unhappy because the other parent has a very different parenting style than your own. You can’t agree on what doctor your child should see, what school they should go to, or what type of entertainment is age appropriate. Perhaps you feel the other parent is neglectful, does not give the child prescribed medications, or does not make sure the child’s homework is done on time. Mediation can help. Either party can request that the court appoint a mediator to help you communicate on these fine points of co-parenting. However, in cases where either party has extreme viewpoints and cannot agree, it is best to have a pit bull on standby to immediately take steps to modify your custody and placement order.
Scenario: You have been divorced for about a year. You’ve been offered a great job...100 miles away. This will impact your placement schedule, because it will make transportation more difficult for placement exchanges. In this case, it is best to consult an attorney on taking your ex back to court to modify the current placement order. In this case, the court may order you to attend mediation to try to come to an agreement on the placement of your children, and the transportation between homes. Whatever the case, when successful, mediation can be very helpful in arriving at a settlement in your case that accommodates the needs and desires of everyone involved. Once an agreement is reached, the mediator will write up the agreement, and both parties will sign it. This agreement can then be incorporated as an Order of the court.
If mediation fails, do not feel as though you are out of options. The attorneys at John T. Fields & Associates are here to serve you and your family law needs.