By Amanda Diplan, Cordell & Cordell Family Law Attorney
In some states, such as Florida where I am licensed to practice, mediation may be a requirement before being able to obtain a final hearing or trial before the judge. This means that often times, mediation may feel and seem like merely a stepping stone to scheduling trial.
However, mediation is a very useful tool in trying to resolve your case. At mediation, a partial resolution may be reached on a temporary or permanent basis; a full resolution may be reached on a permanent basis; or, no agreement is reached but information gathering and gaming insight on the other side’s position on certain issues may have been accomplished.
Since mediation has proven to be an effective tool in family law cases, the following are some tips to manage your experience at mediation.
First, be sure to be prepared.
Think about your case and pay close attention to the issues that are pending, write it down and discuss this with your attorney to ensure that you and your attorney are on the same page, prior to attending mediation.
Next, think about your list of goals and objectives (what would your ideal settlement of all issues be/where would you feel comfortable settling?); write it down as well and discuss this too with your attorney.
Come up with a game plan so that you know where you are willing to negotiate with flexibly and where you are unwilling to compromise as much.
Keep in mind, the other side is going to have issues where they are strict on negotiating too – that is where the mediator will use his or her skills to explore alternative solutions and facilitate the negotiation between the parties.
Another tip for mediation is to be very patient.
This is often easier said than done. You may feel welcoming of the mediation process with the intention of resolving your case or you may feel hopeless and just there to get to trial; but since you are there you might as well take advantage of the time there.
The mediation will generally take place in one of two ways: all parties, their attorneys and the mediator may all be meeting in one room; or each party and their attorney may have separate rooms and the mediator will go back and forth during the mediation. Usually, mediation will occur with the parties being in separate rooms, which is generally more favorable since there are likely many contested issues that may cause additional conflict if all parties are in the same room. Additionally, by being in separate rooms, the parties can feel comfortable conferring with their attorney privately.
Since the parties will be separate and the mediator goes back and forth between the rooms, often times, the mediator will be gone for an extended period of time which may cause anxiousness. Be patient. This does not mean that the mediator favors the other side. It may simply mean that the mediator is using techniques to promote the idea of compromise and bargaining, if the other side is not cooperating.
Also, do not expect to receive a realistic offer during the first round of mediation. Sometimes, the first round is comprised of unrealistic expectations and desires which can cause frustration.
Be patient and let the mediation take its course.
Understand mediator’s role
Understand your mediator’s role.
The mediator is there to help facilitate negotiations with the goal of assisting the parties in reaching a global resolution of all issues. He is not there to make any decisions for you. The mediator will use his or her skills to help the parties reach an amicable resolution.
By being the go-between, the mediator will gather information on both sides and use that information to clarify issues. By clarifying issues, even if it is detail by detail, it often allows the parties to move forward to see beyond an issue for the purpose of resolving the matter.
Understand mediation’s benefits
Lastly, truly understanding what a successful mediation can bring is my final tip.
At mediation, with the help of your mediator and guidance of your counsel, you have an opportunity to be in control of the resolution of your case.
At mediation, you will not be forced to settle. The mediator is not a judge and cannot force you to agree. You are in control of what terms to settle on. You may agree to something different than you would be asking the judge to award you. You may not.
But, at mediation, it is your decision. You have the opportunity to make decisions on a potential agreement. If an agreement is not reached at mediation, then your case may likely proceed to a trial where the judge will make decisions on behalf of the parties.
As such, use mediation to your advantage and embrace the skills of your mediator to help you reach an agreement that you are satisfied with.