What is Family Law Mediation?

 Mediation is a process where parties work with a trained family law mediator to resolve their issues rather than litigate those issues in court.  It involves confidential meetings with a trained family law mediator who acts as a neutral to assist and empower the parties to resolve issues in dispute.

How does the process work?

 Initially, I conduct an “introduction to mediation” session with both parties where I explain the mediation process and answer any questions about the mediation process.  This “introduction” is non-substantive and only deals with the process of mediation.  Specific issues are addressed in mediation. 

What is your training and background as a family law mediator?

 I have taken more than 120 hours of both basic and advanced mediation training, which includes 40 hours of training in collaborative divorce.  In addition, as a licensed attorney, I also practice law at the courthouse.  This gives me a perspective of how family law judges deal with issues that often come up in mediation, which I share with the parties when applicable. 

Family Law Mediation is Confidential.

 Whatever is said in mediation is confidential and can never be used in litigation.  However, in litigation everything becomes part of the public record, even matters that you might not want to become public.  Most mediation is successful and an agreement is reached without the parties ever stepping inside of a courtroom.  However, in the few cases where mediation does not succeed, neither party can force the mediator to testify in the divorce case. 

Can I still have an attorney if I choose mediation?

 Yes.  You and your spouse can both have attorneys during the mediation process.  Sometimes parties feel more comfortable having an attorney they can contact before and/or after each mediation session to ask legal advice.  I allow attorneys to be present during mediation sessions, but only as long as both parties have attorneys.  I do not allow one party to have their attorney present and the other party to be without an attorney during mediation sessions.

What if I decided I don’t want to mediate anymore?

 Family law mediation is a completely voluntary process.  You cannot be forced to continue mediation if you feel it is no longer working for you.

Do we have to go to Court if we reach an agreement?

 No.  If you reach an agreement, the mediator will write up your agreement and file it with the Court.  You will never see the inside of the courthouse.     
How can I be sure the mediator won’t take sides?

 It is normal for people going through a divorce to be defensive, suspicious, and sometimes even a little paranoid.  However, in order for mediation to work, the mediator must be neutral.  This does not mean that the mediator must be passive.  It is fair for a mediator to tell a party that the other party is being reasonable.  This is because too often, parties going through a divorce don’t actually hear each other.  As one wise mediator said, “listening isn’t the same thing as obeying.”  The neutral mediator asks that both parties listen to each other and understand what is being said, before moving on to exploring resolutions to problems.
What if I don’t want to mediate, but I don’t want to litigate?  Are there other choices?

 Yes.  There is a relatively new process called Collaborative Divorce.  In Collaborative Divorce, both parties have attorneys but they have pledged not to litigate their divorce.  If either party decides to litigate, the attorneys must disqualify themselves.

For more information, please call Philip A. Wasserman at 661-294-8484 or email him at pawlaw@earthlink.net.