Mediation is an alternative form of dispute resolution which helps parties come to an agreement outside the courtroom with the help of a neutral third party known as a mediator. The mediator helps both parties determine their problems, find common ground, and work towards a mutual agreement. Family mediation is becoming increasingly popular for families looking to resolve conflict and reach agreements on various issues. Issues discussed in family mediation include child custody, child support, property division, visitation rights, and spousal support.
Although family mediation is less formal than traditional court cases, the process still involves several distinct stages designed to help the opposing parties reach a mutual agreement.
Stages of the family mediation process
A typical family mediation process involves six stages:
- Opening statement from the mediator
To begin the mediation, the mediator will make an opening statement and set the tone for the process. They will explain their role, introduce all the parties involved and explain the rules and goals of the process.
- Opening statements from the parties
After the mediator establishes the ground rules and goals of the process, they will allow each party to make an opening statement. In your opening remarks, you can explain the dispute and how it has affected you. While one party is speaking, the other is not allowed to interrupt. At the end of the opening statements, both the disputing parties and the mediator should better understand the problem.
Following the opening statements from each party, the mediator will invite both parties to discuss what was said. The mediator will ask the parties open-ended questions to encourage them to give additional information on the issues at hand. The goal of the discussion is to help the mediator figure out what issues can be settled first.
- Private meetings
Once the issues are out in the open, the mediator will have private discussions with each party. Meeting privately with the mediator will allow you to develop new ideas for the settlement and prepare for negotiations. Depending on your needs, you may meet your mediator once or several times.
After the private meetings with both parties, the mediator will bring the parties together to negotiate directly. During this step, you and the other individual can work to identify, explore and refine your options for a final agreement that meets both of your needs.
There are two possible outcomes from mediation. If the parties agree, the mediator will put the agreement in writing. In most cases, the agreement will need to be approved by a judge to become legally binding. Your mediator will also recommend that you have the agreement reviewed by your lawyer before signing.
If an agreement isn’t reached, the mediator will review the progress and recommend a way forward. They may recommend meeting again for another session, or they may advise you to take the dispute to arbitration or court.
Family mediation in Surrey
At Highland Law, our family lawyers have experience in helping families resolve conflict outside the courtroom. We can help you identify the issues that need to be addressed and ensure that both parties arrive at a mutual agreement.