What is Mediation?
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission offers a succinct definition of mediation. "Mediation is an informal and confidential way for people to resolve disputes with the help of a neutral mediator who is trained to help people discuss their differences." Unlike a judge, a mediator does not decide who is right or wrong and hand down a verdict. The mediator's role is to facilitate dialog and encourage the parties to propose solutions in order to reach a satisfactory agreement.
How Do You Find a Mediator?
In a divorce proceeding, a mediator often will be assigned to your case by the court. A family law mediator will help you to work through issues involving finances, child and spousal support, visitation rights and custody issues. If you are contemplating divorce, and both spouses want to talk with a mediator, you can find mediators through your attorney, state or local bar association, at the public law library in your county courthouse, or in the phone book. Many communities offer low-cost mediation services as well. Although some mediators are attorneys, many are therapists or other professionals who handle family law issues on a regular basis.
What is the Mediation Process?
Mediation is a voluntary process. If you and your spouse agree to mediate, you will be asked to meet with the mediator. Attorneys representing the parties are usually encouraged to attend. The mediator will ask each party to explain the fundamental issues under dispute and moderate a dialog between you and your spouse. The mediation process usually lasts as long as it takes to resolve the dispute -- it could be in a few hours or over a period of weeks. If the mediation is successful, the mediator will write up an agreement, both parties sign it and you will have a legally binding contract. If you are in a divorce process, the agreement will be filed with the court and signed by a judge, thus becoming an official court order. If either party violates a court order, he or she can be held in contempt of court.
What Issues are Addessed in Mediation?
Anything and everything the parties want to bring up. If custody of a pet goldfish is a major bone of contention, you can bring it up in mediation. Unlike a courtroom, where the judge is bound by rules of evidence and the specifics of the law, parties in mediation can raise any issues they choose. If there are deep emotional issues between the parties, whether it involves mistrust, betrayal, hostility or abuse, the confidential mediation process is an opportunity to air grievances and, perhaps, lessen the animosity between you and your spouse.