By Brad Hart -
It seems that people are becoming more willing every day to take a legal matter directly to the justice system for resolution. This may be caused by or at least influenced by the recent influx of class action lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies. These types of personal injury cases can be time-consuming for an individual, but cases involving family law are usually far more detrimental and can lead to unfortunate consequences for any of the parties involved. It is a good sign, however, that people are becoming more willing to handle their family disputes through family law mediation. Mediation offers several benefits, and the outcome of the process is often far better than that which could be received in a court of law.
What is Mediation?
Mediation is a type of alternative dispute resolution that keeps the involved parties out of a courtroom. As the name implies, mediation involves the use of a neutral third-party mediator in an effort to settle a dispute. Mediation is used in several areas of law which include family, real estate and business. Disputes such as divorces, child custody battles, spousal support or any other type of family law disagreement may be able to be resolved through the use of a mediator without having to drag the family through the mud during a court trial.
Mediators sit down with the two parties who are in disagreement. It is the mediator’s job to open up or improve the dialogue between the two parties. Licensed mediators can often be found by contacting an area’s local bar association and requesting information. These mediators do their best to help the disputants come to a mutually beneficial agreement. If an agreement is impossible, then both parties still have the right to pursue legal action. If the parties do come to an agreement, however, it is possible to make it legally binding through a deed of agreement.
Why Mediation is Important for Family Law
Most people are fully aware of the harsh consequences that can befall the individuals involved in family legal disputes. Arguing over the custody of a child or marital benefits in an open court can be detrimental to the entire family and potentially destroy extended familial relationships. The costs related to hiring attorneys and constant court fees can also quickly add up. The full cost of involvement in these legal proceedings can make disputes over property seem especially minor once all is said and done with.
There are of course other benefits to hiring a mediator as opposed to going into court. As mentioned earlier, attorneys can end up costing a family thousands of dollars between the two parties involved. Luckily, family law mediators must be experienced in family law issues. This often means that licensed psychologists, social workers and attorneys will be the only available mediators. This in turn means that the mediator will have full knowledge of the related laws and be able to present them in a fair and balanced manner for all parties.
Many parties involved in a family legal dispute will try to handle the situations themselves without the use of the courts or a mediator. While this can be prudent in some cases, it often leaves many things to be desired. An agreement between two parties, for instance, may not be a legal resolution in the area in which they live.
A mediator will know this and be able to offer solutions that the family never even considered. The parties involved can still hire attorneys to represent them during mediation, and this often gives all parties a sense that their full rights are being protected.
Benefits of Family Law Mediation
There are several benefits related to handling a dispute in front of a mediator rather than a judge. The legal system obviously benefits by being able to redirect its resources to cases that cannot possibly be resolved without intervention of the courts. Most individuals involved in family legal disputes, however, don’t really see this benefit as a huge perk. Fortunately, there are several advantages that directly affect the parties involved in the dispute as well.
One of the biggest benefits of using mediators to handle family law disputes is the confidentiality that is inherent to the mediation process. The only people who will have direct knowledge of what happens in mediation are the mediator and the parties involved in the dispute. Mediators, in most cases, cannot be compelled by the legal system to testify about anything that occurred during the process. It is unfortunate that complete strangers or spiteful acquaintances can sit in the courtroom during most family law cases, but mediation completely removes the possibility of this problem.
Another beneficial feature of mediation in these disputes is the fact that the involved parties always have some form of control over the process. Either party can walk away from the mediation at any time if they feel it isn’t proving fruitful or fair. Both parties also have a say in the final agreement that is reached. This is not how it works in a court of law. Judges or juries will pass down judgment that usually benefits one party to the detriment of the other. Mediators can also come up with complex solutions for problems that judges and juries cannot provide legally.
A final factor that many parties to mediations find appealing is the expedient process. Court cases can be dragged out for months or even years. This means an insane amount of money can be lost on attorney fees and families can go extended amounts of time with no real resolution. Mediations are often able to be handled in one day. Even though mediators do charge a fee, the simple fact that the mediation will only cost all parties involved one day of their time makes it a far more economical and efficient way of handling family issues.
Mediation is a vital tool in family law cases. If a case doesn’t involve some form of physical abuse, a mediator can often help resolve the issue at a fraction of the cost and time involved in normal family law proceedings. The overall purpose of mediation in family law is to handle a potentially devastating dispute in a timely manner and in a way that is fair to everyone involved. It’s a sad time in a family when any dispute needs mediation or litigation, but hopefully the trend of people opting for the former will continue to grow.