If efforts to resolve the parties’ differences are unsuccessful, the Court will commonly order that the parties attend domestic relations mediation so that their property, alimony, and other child custody or support related matters can be solved with the help of a qualified mediator.
Choosing a Mediator
Domestic Relations Mediators are lawyers who have been specifically trained in family law matters and are qualified to help the parties and their attorneys in these disputes. Attorneys of the parties will commonly agree about which mediator to use, but if an agreement isn’t possible, the Court will simply designate one of the qualified mediators to act in this capacity.
Most domestic relations mediators are paid by the parties on an hourly basis for their services. These fees are usually equally divided between the parties and are usually billed at a somewhat lesser rate than the mediator would charge for legal services to their own clients.
How the Mediation Process Works
The mediation process is well suited to assist in resolving the issues in a domestic relations case. After each of the attorneys for the parties have accumulated sufficient information to fully understand and set forth the positions of the parties, the attorneys will prepare and present to the mediator a summary of the history of the marriage, background on the parties, details of the assets, and a proposal for resolution of the issues.
Following the submission of these summaries, the mediator will conduct a rather informal mediation, attempting to bring the parties together with their attorneys to resolve all or some of the issues. The mediation process presents a very real and viable opportunity to bring resolution to the divorce case at a significantly reduced economic and emotional expense to the parties, as opposd to a contested trial.
Occasionally, under rather special circumstances, the parties and their attorneys may agree to have “binding” mediation. If this prospect is considered, the impact of this decision should be seriously discussed and considered with your attorney.
Entering a Settlement
If settlement is reached, the parties will be asked to sign a mediation (or settlement) agreement containing all the provisions of the settlement. Alternatively, they may be asked to approve the final Judgment. Further, the parties may be required to approve the settlement in court, before the Judge, after it is placed on the record.
If unresolved issues remain after mediation, the Court will conduct a trial to determine the unresolved issues.