Mediation is a process for couples who are living in conflict and who wish to have a neutral third party, called a mediator, help them resolve their conflict. Mediators take special training to learn conflict resolution techniques which enable them to facilitate the communication between the parties who find themselves in various disputes. Family law mediators help couples resolve issues concerning child custody, child support, division of property and alimony, without the intervention of lawyers and courts.
Mediators are not permitted to give legal advice to either person involved in the mediation process. This is because the mediator must remain neutral. Parties involved in a family law mediation process are encouraged to have their own lawyer available (sometimes in the actual process and sometimes outside the process) to provide individualized legal advice and to ensure that the agreements reached in mediation are well thought out and in their best interest.
Mediation can be very effective because the parties with a stake in the outcome are the ones making the agreements and decisions. The mediator creates a structured process which enables the parties to exchange information, listen to opposing positions and jointly consider various options for mutual gain.
Mediation is generally less expensive when contrasted to the expense of litigation. When parties want to get on with the business of their lives, mediation may be a desirable means of producing rapid results. Parties are generally more satisfied with the solutions that have been mutually agreed upon, as opposed to solutions which are imposed by a judge. Mediated settlements are also able to address both legal and extralegal issues, and people who negotiate their own settlements often feel more powerful that those who use surrogate advocates, such as lawyers, to represent them. Finally, mediated settlements tend to hold up over time, and if a later dispute results, the parties are more likely to utilize a cooperative forum of problem solving to resolve their differences that to pursue an adversarial approach.