Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution method that requires mutual agreement, aimed at resolving conflict without the need for court involvement. During meditation, a trained mediator will help facilitate dialogue between the conflicting parties. Mediators are neutral, third-party professionals; they cannot make decisions for the parties, nor can they give orders. Instead, they encourage parties to share relevant information and communicate effectively. Mediators can also help reframe issues and identify options, assisting the parties in finding common ground and mutually agreeable solutions. Their ultimate role is to facilitate compromise and resolve conflicts so that the parties retain control of their own outcomes.
With the help of a mediator, the parties will:
- Identify the questions that need to be answered.
- Focus on answering the most important questions first.
- Agree on property division, parenting schedules, spousal support, etc.
- Memorialize their agreement in writing.
- Review and sign their agreement.
These discussions can take place with both parties in the same room, or in separate rooms with the mediator speaking to each party in turns. Depending on how open the parties are to negotiating, mediation is often faster and less expensive than going to court. Mediation allows the parties to have the final say on issues: if one party does not agree with the terms proposed by the other party, they can continue to negotiate rather than being bound by the decision of a third party. It also tends to be a somewhat collaborative process, and collaboration between parties decreases conflict and stress. This is especially important when the divorcing parties will need to continue to co-parent their children. Ultimately, if the parties are unable to work through their disagreements during mediation, they may always fall back on litigation and ask the court to resolve their issues.