Discussions of Family Law matters can be emotionally harrowing for all parties involved. Issues related to Family Law often hit very close to home, and can be incredibly divisive, especially if divorce is involved. When a dispute arises that creates an emotional wall that prevents any solution from being reached, mediation may be a good option to consider. Mediation is commonly sought out in issues involving divorce, support or child custody as an alternative to litigation or courtroom processes. The process caters to the emotional needs of both parties, and allows them to express themselves in an in environment where both of the parties can be heard. Unlike the standard arbitration or conferences, mediation is seldom legally binding, so the pressure of a judge, arbitrator or other court representative making a decision is off. Instead, the parties will try to arrive at an amicable solution through discussion of what issues are important to them.
Mediation is the process of a mediator encouraging both parties to come to an amicable solution. Mediation differs from methods used in court, such as conferences and hearings, because it relies on both parties being guided to their own settlement through mediated discussion, rather than a judge or other court representative making a decision. Pennsylvania does not retain its own court appointed mediators, however, there is an organization of mediators in Pennsylvania that can be contacted to select one for your case. Mediators are not typically assigned by the court, but instead chosen by one of the participants. Mediators come from a wide variety of professions, such as marriage counselors, psychologists, social workers or other professions that specialize in communication between parties.
Types of Cases Taken On By Mediators
Mediators take on a variety of cases, and they are not always related to matters of Family Law. Mediators handle a disputes between neighbors, business owners, and more. When a mediator does take on a Family Law dispute, it will typically relate to one or more of the following:
- Child custody issues
- Spousal or child support issues
- Divorce and separation
- Property division
These matters will often come up in discussion and the mediator will make efforts to hear and resolve both parties's concerns amicably. While these are all matters of Family Law, oftentimes one of the issues presses more heavily on one party's agenda, and mediation can help bring it forward for discussion.
The mediation process can be requested by either party. Following this, the mediator will contact the opposing party. Mediation is an entirely voluntary process, so the other party can choose to not engage, or can terminate the process at any time if they feel the discussion is not useful. Mediators will hold a mediation session at a designated location. Prior to a mediation session, parties and mediators may set rules to how the discussion may proceed. At the mediation session, both parties will be allowed to air their own points of view and, the mediator will try to direct the conversation towards what issues are important to both sides. The mediator will work to summarize and frame the issues that are brought up in a way that shows both parties one another's point of view. Parties may also request to speak with the mediator independently, and the mediator will keep these meetings confidential, unless the party desires otherwise. Sometimes, mediation can take multiple session before an agreement or solution is arrived at. If an agreement is reached, the mediator can help the parties put it into words. If the mediation session is being held at court, a custody agreement or support agreement may be drafted at this time as well.
It is important to remember that mediation is not always legally binding, unless an agreement is filed with the court. This means that if after some thought, if one of the parties no longer agrees with the terms agreed to in mediation they may pursue other means to resolve the matter. This also means that you may find yourself in court even after a mediation has concluded, depending on what the other party decides to do. While custody, support, and divorce matters may sometimes be resolved through mediation, it may be helpful to consult with an attorney in preparation for having to go to court if it does not work out as planned.
Can I Involve My Attorney?
Mediation is a process that typically only involves the parties directly involved in the situation. For this reason, attorneys are not typically allowed to participate in a discussion, however, it may be helpful to have an attorney retained. An attorney's counsel from behind the scenes while working through mediation can advise you on what the best course of action will be. While reaching an amicable settlement can be beneficial and much less stressful than going into court, it is important to ensure that your interests in the matter are protected. While mediation can offer one possible solution, an attorney can advise you on what your chances may be if you were to take the matter to the courtroom.
Mediation is well-intentioned, however, it may not always result in a favorable outcome. In order to secure you and your family's best interests, it is advised to consult with an attorney to know what all possible outcomes may be. If you or a loved one is involved in matters of Family Law, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today.