Summarizing the mediation process, and examining the key benefits of mediation and other methods of dispute resolution as a way of resolving the practical arrangements following separation.
The family mediation process
First call – mediation usually starts with the mediator having a short initial conversation with each of the parties individually. The purpose of this conversation is to talk to the parties about the mediation process and consider whether any issues would mean that mediation is not appropriate.
Individual meetings – following the initial conversation, the mediator will have a meeting with each party separately. This is sometimes called a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM), to discuss their background briefly and explain a little more about the mediation process. The initial meetings are confidential and the content will not be discussed with the other party.
First joint meeting – following the individual meetings, if the parties choose to proceed with mediation, they will arrange a joint session with the mediator. The first meeting is used to go through the Agreement to Mediate form, deal with any issues, and set the agenda for future sessions.
Further joint meetings – the focus of future meetings will depend on the issues the parties want to cover, but this will usually involve discussion around the arrangements for the children, followed by a review of the financial disclosure and an exploration of possible financial settlement. Future meetings shouldn’t be confused with a continuation of mediation that happens on a different day, often mediations settle or end in one day and do not continue at a further date.
If an agreement is reached, the mediator can record the relevant information and decisions in the required documents. This is called a Mediated Settlement Agreement (or MSA) and is a legally binding agreement.
The benefits of family mediation
There are several benefits to the mediation process, some of which are set out below. Mediation is not right for everyone, and the mediator and the party’s solicitor will consider any issues which may make mediation difficult or unsuitable. The benefits include:
The mediator will encourage the parties to set the agenda and confirm what they want to cover in mediation. You can address matters important to your family and those which may not otherwise be relevant in a court process. Mediation sessions can be arranged for a time and place convenient for you and the mediator. You choose the length of time between sessions and manage its pace. You won’t have to wait months for the next date, as can happen in a court process, and you can ensure each person has enough time to collate financial disclosure and reflect on suggestions made.
Decisions reached in mediation can be tailored to suit your family. This is in contrast to court-imposed decisions where the judge may not have the power to impose similar arrangements or has not appreciated the subtlety of why a particular suggestion may be better.
A mediator’s role is to facilitate a dialogue between the parties and encourage suggestions about the outcome. When a decision is made together in mediation, it is more likely that both parties will honor the agreement. Mediation is designed to promote communication and a long-term co-parenting relationship. This is particularly important for parents who are going to have a relationship for the rest of their children’s lives.
Mediation is a private and confidential process, which means that parties are encouraged to be open about options they want to consider. This usually results in parties making suggestions they would be reluctant to make in court proceedings. For high-profile clients, it is also a way of keeping details of your relationship out of the public eye.
Costs and speed
If successful, mediation can be cheaper and quicker than court proceedings. By setting the agenda and choosing the number of sessions you have, parties have much more control over the process than when they are part of court proceedings. The mediator will also manage the process and ensure that mediation does not continue if it is unproductive or making matters worse.If you have any questions, please contact a member of our team at 361-578-7200 or click here to get started and find out where you stand. As a Certified Mediator, Leslie A. Werner is an advocate for mediations and a wealth of knowledge on the subject. We can provide mediation services if you are already represented, or can go to bat for you in a mediation if it appears to be the best strategy for your case.