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FAMILY COURT MEDIATION: AN OVERVIEW

What is Family Court Mediation?

Family mediation is a decision-making process that occurs when questions arise from family conflicts such as separation or divorce. Both parties must sign an Agreement to Mediate, which ensures that the proceedings of the mediation as well as the documents involved (records, mediator fees, etc.) will be kept confidential (this is also done to prevent the mediator from being subpoenaed).

Issues discussed in family court mediation sessions often include:

  • Pre-nuptial arrangements
  • Custody of children
  • Division of assets and debts
  • Child support and alimony.

Do I Need a Family Law Lawyer for Mediation?

While it is not essential that you obtain a family law lawyer for mediation (lawyers are often not present for sessions unless specifically asked to attend by the mediator or a party involved in mediation), you should obtain a lawyer to review any agreements and to appear with you at court-mandated hearings.

What is the Mediation Process Like?

Both parties meet with a state-certified mediator for a series of conferences (usually multiple two-hour sessions) to address issues that will affect both parties after the separation or divorce. These issues include alimony, child custody, and the division of property. Mediators ask general questions designed to encourage discussion without placing blame on any one individual. While mediators strive to help clear up all issues and disputes, they may recommend that specific issues be addressed with professionals in that field (example: issue of property possession referred to an accountant to determine financial factors).

Mediation provides a healthy and safe atmosphere in which parties can address particularly personal issues in a private setting. Discussion between parties often leads to more positive feelings about the situation, which is especially important if children are involved in the discussion/mediation session. In fact, research suggests that settlements reached in mediation include more joint custody agreements.