WHAT IS MEDIATION?
The mediator provides an atmosphere for sharing ideas and generally will ask the parties to agree to some basic ground rules during the discussion (e.g., only one person speaks at a time, no name calling or shouting).
Each party is given a full opportunity to share his or her perspective on the situation. The mediator then summarizes the information shared by each party and helps the parties define the issues.
The mediator encourages the parties to generate possible options for resolving their dispute and to select a mutually agreeable solution. If the parties resolve some or all issues, the mediator may prepare a written memorandum.
One or more mediation sessions may be needed depending on the number and complexity of the issues.
Mediation is a process that gives the parties the opportunity to resolve issues for their children and themselves rather than to have a judge decide for them. When parties design their own solutions to their own problems, they are more likely to be satisfied with the agreement and to follow it.
Successful mediation often reduces the hostility that may accompany a court proceeding. Reduction in conflict between parents is beneficial to both parents and their children. Also, a mediated parenting agreement eliminates the need for a trial over issues concerning children, thus avoiding a negative experience that can be emotionally damaging for children.
Mediation is generally less expensive than a contested trial. Successful mediation will often reduce attorney fees and court costs. It also may reduce expenses for appraisals, accounting services, expert witnesses and other expenses that are normally part of adversarial court proceedings.
DO I NEED A LAWYER?
Mediation does not require a lawyer; in fact part of the advantage of mediation is the lack of a lawyer and the corresponding legal fees. However, you may want to hire a lawyer as a consultant to offer advice during the mediation which is substantially cheaper than hiring a lawyer to litigate your case. Also, a lawyer should generally be consulted to discuss the consequences of the mediation and any settlement.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE?
Statistically, most mediation cases only last a day or two. This is partly because mediation is less cumbersome than litigation, but also because people typically take smaller disputes to mediation and save really large complex claims for litigation. Larger business and divorce/custody mediation may last significantly longer - weeks even - but this is still much quicker than traditional litigation.