What is Mediation?

handshake01Many clients who are experiencing the court process for the first time have questions about mediation. In almost every divorce and custody case in Tennessee, the judge will require the parties to attend mediation prior to setting a trial date. Mediation can be a great option for clients in other types of cases as well. I have represented clients in many types of disputes at mediation, including divorces, custody, grandparent visitation, child support, post-Dependency & Neglect change of custody, modification of parenting plans.

Mediation is a form of Alternative Dispute Resolution. When parties attend mediation, they agree on a neutral, third party individual to help negotiate an agreement. Because the mediator is neutral, he or she will not advocate on behalf of either party and does not offer legal advice to either party. Often, these mediators are local family law attorneys who are familiar with the laws and judges in the area. The goal of mediation is to have both parties make concessions so that they can reach an agreement on their own, rather than going before the judge.

Mediation is confidential. The mediator cannot be called as a witness at trial if you are unable to settle. Furthermore, the mediator will not relay information to the other party during mediation if you request that it remain confidential.

Mediation is cost-effective. Typically, even though mediation could be one expensive day, it is much cheaper than paying attorneys to prepare for and conduct a trial.

Typically, the mediator will place the parties in separate rooms, and it is normal in family law cases for the attorneys to be present for mediation. Your attorney can provide you with legal advice while in mediation, including the consequences of any agreement you reach. The mediator could choose to place the parties in the same room, but many times in family law cases, the emotions are high and it can be best to have the parties separated. When the parties are separated, the mediator will move between each room, working toward resolution.

Mediation is an empowering process. It allows the parties to decide what their future will look like instead of having someone else shape their lives going forward. Furthermore, parties should take into consideration that they know what is best for their family and their children – much more so than a judge who has only known them and their situation for a few hours.

When negotiations are successful and an agreement is reached, the parties will enter into a binding, written agreement while at mediation. Typically, you will draft and sign all necessary documents while at mediation, including your Marital Dissolution Agreement, Parenting Plan and Child Support Worksheet.

If you have questions about mediation or would like to schedule a free consultation to determine if your case is ripe for settlement, contact our office today!

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