Family mediation services provide assistance to families with legal issues including separation, divorce, parenting issues, property division and elder care. Mediation is a voluntary and consensual process where the outcome is determined by the parties rather than being judged by a Court. This can help to preserve or improve the relationships between the parties and also reduce time and cost as compared to litigation.
A mediator is a neutral participant who helps disputing family members resolve their conflict through facilitation of discussion and guided exploration of solutions to problems. This is done in a confidential setting and generally involves brainstorming, experience and attentive listening by the mediator to help the parties find workable solutions that will address their particular circumstances.
Family mediation is often used in divorce cases where the couple has children, however it can also be useful for same sex couples that are separating, parents who never married and have children together, or even family disputes within a single household. A mediator can assist with negotiating arrangements for the co-parenting of children, child support, property settlement and alimony.
The benefits of family mediation include a more tailored approach, lower costs as compared to litigation, preservation or improvement in relationships between the parties and children, and greater control over the outcome rather than leaving it up to a Judge. It can also be faster and less distressing for the whole family than fighting it out in a courtroom.
In a typical family mediation session the mediator will meet with both parties and spend time discussing why they are there, what they hope to achieve from the mediation and will explore possible solutions for the issues. Depending on the nature of the case, this could be in one session or over a series of sessions and can take place either face to face, via video conference or by phone.
It is important for each party to be open and honest during the mediation so that the most suitable solution can be found. The mediator will assist the parties to discuss all of the issues that need to be addressed and the mediator can prepare drafts of the emerging agreement for review, revision and preparation for signing.
Unlike traditional court proceedings, there are no fixed costs associated with family mediation sessions. This can be especially helpful for those that may be facing financial difficulties as a result of their relationship breakdown, or if there is an issue of domestic violence or drug/alcohol abuse. This can make it an attractive option to those who are worried about the financial implications of going to court, such as legal fees, private investigation and expert testimonies, court filing charges and paper copies. Most courts offer family mediation programs and may offer a free initial session and reduced-fee follow up sessions. Some community groups also offer free or low-cost family mediation services. If you are considering mediation for your situation, it is best to speak with a family law specialist first.