What is mediation?
Mediation is a process used to facilitate the settlement of claims between parties. When used in divorce cases, that includes division of property and provisions regarding children. In divorce mediation, each party, along with their attorney, communicates through a neutral, third-party mediator. The parties can either agree on a mediator or the Court can appoint a mediator. Normally, the cost of the mediator is shared equally between the parties, but the burden can shift in certain circumstances. Mediators charge varying rates, and this charge can depend upon the amount of time needed for the mediation.
The role of the mediator is to try and open communication between the parties and bring them closer to an agreeable settlement. While the mediator cannot force either party to sign an agreement nor impose orders upon either party, they can bring a new and fresh perspective to the discussion, allowing the parties to view things differently, which can often help with a settlement of the outstanding issues. If the parties reach an agreement, they will sign a mediated settlement agreement that will be filed with the Court to evidence this agreement. The agreement is binding on both parties once it is signed. One of the attorneys will then prepare the final order based upon the agreements of the parties.
If the parties are not able to reach an agreement during the mediation process, it does not necessarily mean that it will be impossible to reach a settlement, as the parties can continue in their negotiations. If an agreement is not reached, the parties may then continue to trial.