There are several routes to take when beginning a divorce or separation. No matter how we begin, the majority of our contested cases end up being resolved in mediation.
Mediation is a process by which a mediator – usually a lawyer with extensive Family Court experience – meets with the parties, either individually or together, with their own lawyers or without – to help them reach an agreement on the issues. The mediator does not represent either of the parties, and does not make any decisions in the case. Mediators help the parties reach an agreement on their own, so the case does not have to be tried. Mediated agreements must be approved by the Family Court and made into a Family Court Order before they are enforceable.
There are many advantages to mediation, including:
- Creative solutions. Often the mediator can fashion creative provisions that a Family
Court judge might not have the authority to include in an Order.
- Speed. You get a quicker resolution to your case. It can take more than a year to have
trial scheduled, but mediation can be scheduled at any point during the case.
- Preparation Expense. Most of the time, mediation is far less expensive than trial. Even
though mediation requires extensive attorney preparation, it does not come close to the
preparation needed for trial.
- Time. A trial is often scheduled for more than one day or court time, and sometimes
more than one week of court time. Mediation is usually finished in one day, although
more complex cases may take several days.
- Control. You keep control over your life when you reach a mediated settlement. A
Family Court Judge has only the information presented during trial on which to base
major decisions about your life the lives of your children. When you get a mediated
agreement, you and your estranged spouse make all of the decisions.
- Finality. When you complete a trial and get a judge’s ruling, either or both parties can
appeal that ruling. This can take years, and end up with a re-trial of the same issues.
When you get a mediated agreement, you are finished with your case. When a mediated
agreement becomes a written, signed agreement and is approved and adopted by the
Family Court, it is final and cannot be appealed.
- Security. When you take your case to trial, you have no idea what the Judge’s ruling
might be. When you enter into a mediated agreement, you do not face the uncertainty of the Family Court Judge’s decision.
You cannot know your best option with any certainty until you meet with us. Because we try to avoid formal discovery when we do Cooperative Law, we believe that one of the first requirements is that both parties have full knowledge of their overall financial situation, including assets, debts and incomes. There must be some degree of trust between the parties to reduce the fear that one or the other is hiding assets or income. Cases in which there are allegations of physical or emotional abuse by one of the parties are not usually appropriate for collaborative and cooperative law.
Arbitration is a process of adjudicating a case without actually having a trial in Family Court. Arbitration is usually a less formal process than trial, and is often binding on the parties. An arbitrator needs to be Certified Family Court Mediator and Arbitrator. Unlike the mediator, the arbitrator acts like a judge, making final decisions in the case. There are advantages and disadvantages to arbitration. Advantages include: