I haven’t yet had a woman come to me and say she wants to sort out the issues in her separation or divorce by going to Court. Many arrive at my door with trepidation because they think that seeing a lawyer means that they will have to go to Court. It just isn’t so. Even in situations that feel full of conflict, there is an increasing number of lawyers motivated to help you resolve things without seeing the doors of a courtroom. Collaborative Practice is one way that resolution can be reached without fanning the flames of conflict and minus the lawyers' letters. Mediation is another.
If you choose to go to mediation, a neutral person (the mediator) will guide you through a structured but flexible process to help you resolve your family law issue, whether that be to do with the arrangements for your children or your financial matters. The mediator is like the GPS in your car. He or she will guide you but you remain in control of the steering wheel.
Whether you attend mediation is up to you. It is completely voluntary and you can pull out of the process at any point. It can involve just you and your ex or you can take your lawyers or a support person. Although you may choose not to have lawyers attend, this doesn’t mean you can’t run things by a lawyer and take advice before agreeing.
You can start mediation at multiple stages. You could head into mediation early on in their separation and use the process throughout, to move you and your ex through the different stages. You may have had lawyers exchanging letters leading up to mediation or even be almost at the point of a hearing.
If the mediator can’t decide your dispute for you, you may be wondering why you’d ever choose mediation and risk not being able to reach agreement. The good news is that mediation has a very high success rate. It also can:
take a lot less time than working through the Court process;
cost a lot less than litigation;
be less damaging to the relationships between everyone. If you are facing years ahead of co-parenting or wish to have ongoing family relationships, this will be very important.
Be less restrictive in terms of the aspects of your story that you tell, the factors you take into account in arriving at a solution and the range of options you can explore for resolving the issue at hand. By comparison, the court is limited in the evidence it can consider and the remedies it may order.
“But it will never work for us. We won’t reach agreement”, you may be saying. Working as a mediator and lawyer, I have lost count of the number of times I have had that said to me by a client who then goes on to reach agreement at mediation. Your mediator will be concerned to assess that mediation will be appropriate for you and your situation. If it is, it may be ideal for allowing you to move forward without giving up control of the steering wheel.
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