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Is Family Mediation Right for You


Is the Family Mediation process effective?

Family Mediation or  Divorce Mediation is a very positive way to resolve important disputes. Not all disputes, however, will meet with successful resolution in mediation. Is Mediation effective? In short, Yes. It is. Here are some things to consider.

What is Family Mediation?

Family Mediation is really just the Parties (Children of course do not participate usually) and the Mediator coming together to address legal issues that affect the happiness and health of the family. Typically, but not always, these issues are then documented and filed with the Court to become part of the Court Order that the Parties must then comply with. Typically the issues addressed can be Parenting Plan modifications, Child Support, Parenting Decisions, Parenting Time, issues with sharing Children’s expenses, behavioral issues, etc. Except for a few facts that are referenced these are my personal observations working in all sorts of mediations and should not be taken as absolute or proper legal advice. You may always consult a competent legal professional with questions specific to your situation.

Options to resolve Family Issues.

1-Voluntary Mediation
2-Court Ordered Mediation
4-Deference to Court

1. Voluntary Mediation

Usually issues that bother one or both Parties can be voluntarily resolved before the issue escalates to the Court or Attorneys. The Parties may meet with the Mediator and work through to an acceptable solution and then that agreement may be filed with the Court. This is called a Verified Stipulated Agreement which means that the Parties mutually agree to the solution and request simply adopt the agreement as is.

There are tremendous benefits for resolving issues this way including saving lots of money, time, stress and lowering the negative consequence of miserable conflict on everyone in the family, mostly the Children.

2. Court Ordered Mediation (Post Decree Mediation)

If the Court becomes involved with a new dispute and there are Children involved they typically order the Parties to Mediation. The Court knows it’s best that, if at all possible, the Parties produce a workable solution with some help from a Mediator. Solutions arrived at through mediation tend to survive longer and be more creative.  If the Parties can produce an agreement in mediation, that agreement can be filed with the Court as a Stipulated Agreement which means the Parties have come up with a solution they both agree on and wish the Court to adopt that solution as is. This keeps the Parties in control of the solution and stops further legal fees usually.

If the Parties can not work together in court ordered mediation, then the Court may proceed to option 4 at their discretion.

3. Litigation

When Parties can’t work through solutions on their own a Family Lawyer can be helpful to drive the matter to resolution. I always say that as soon as the Parties involve Lawyers or the Court they start to prioritize Any Solution over the Fairest Solution. That means that once the legal forces get involved, there will most likely be a solution, even if that solution isn’t desirable. Research shows that Parties utilizing Lawyers only have a 40% success rate. Here a success is defined as the Parties voluntary accepted the resulting agreement or thought the resulting agreement was fair.

You give up some control or more control than you later find you were comfortable with when you turn the matter over to others.  Look at it this way…Lawyers don’t have magic powers and they can’t grant wishes…they are basically just very expensive versions of you both. If you are going to be angry and insist on certain unreasonable terms your Attorney is going to ethically do their best to serve you. So imagine two attorneys having the same arguments you have, but they cost $500 hour to pay for it.  That should snap this into focus. If the issues call for it then ally with a Lawyer as soon as possible. Otherwise, think it through.

Somewhere it has been established that it’s always best to utilize a Lawyer to get what you want. This has it’s place of course, but I’ve seen many people misunderstand this implementation of legal firepower to disastrous ends. Therefore it may be helpful to consider potential outcomes, good and bad.

In my direct observation over the last 14 years, Parties tend to escalate the conflict when attorneys are involved. Not only do you suffer frustration of the tactics of the dispute but also the growing agitation caused by your rapidly escalating legal bill which often the agitation gets redirected back to the other Party, which again escalates the same in them.  Round and round it goes.

Conflict between Parents is the leading cause of emotional issues with Children of Divorce and Conflict. You have to weigh in the potential long term damage caused by Children seeing their Parents escalate conflict. They usually see it as their fault or just internalize how bad it makes them feel to see two people they love argue over them. Many don’t consider this aspect and only years later do they start to understand the consequences and wish they could go back and do things differently.

Lawyers or Attorneys can be an effective ally  when the situation is appropriate. If you can’t for some reason advocate for yourself, or you are dealing with a reckless opponent a Lawyer can be absolutely necessary and I love that they exist to defend and uphold justice and fairness. However, it’s all too easy to unleash a Lawyer when it becomes simply too frustrating to deal with someone and then destructive, often non-reversible, future consequences get created.

4. Deference to Court

Our final option to resolve the dispute is the Court. They will at this point take full control over the outcome. This means a Judge or Magistrate may issue whatever orders they determine are appropriate. It may mean that the Court will order the outcome delegated to a Child Family Investigator (CFI) or Parental Rights Evaluator (PRE).

These individuals have the power to meet with any Party they see as appropriate, including the Children, and then make any determinations that they see are reasonable. Like we say in the industry of divorce, when the CFI or PRE gets involved, everyone leaves crying. This is to say that some solutions prepared differ greatly from what the Parties thought would happen.

The CFI or PRE doesn’t have the objective of making the Parties happy, they are looking for a solution to the dispute that, if anything, favors the Children. You lose all control if the dispute heads in this direction usually. It’s very typical in my observation that the Court fully adopts any recommendation made by the CFI or PRE and then there is a no-meddling component so the Parties can’t modify the agreement for say two or four years. That can be heartbreaking if it’s the wrong solution.

If you go this route you better be certain that you fully understand the full legal consequences by talking to a Family Lawyer and you fully understand the emotional consequences by consulting someone with intimate knowledge of consequences of potential outcomes to Children. Then make up your mind. Sometimes it’s a relief that you can turn the matter over to the Court. When you are dealing with a unbalanced or reckless and harmful person then no negotiation can be arrived at and you need decisive authority to do what’s right. You get the idea.

Where to go from here

When Parties battle through the court room emotions are high and defenses are up. Attacks on the issues can easily come out as attacks on the person. This makes it difficult to maintain a healthy relationship and can be the source of tremendous emotional strain. Workable solutions just can’t be seen through the fog of war.

The statistics from the divorce information we have say that the divorce mediation process is effective over 55% and disputants that go through mediation are satisfied between 70% and 85% of the time. I track my outcomes and currently I am over 85% successful with voluntary outcomes. That’s 61% more effective than the industry average. Compare this to the success rates of clients who utilize attorneys where the client success rate is lower than 40% and you can see the potential of the Mediation process to be effective.

To find success in the mediation process both parties have to voluntarily participate. Both must be able to communicate and keep an open mind to the possible solutions. Some disputants are too emotionally charged or have no interest in any type of ongoing relationship after the dispute. In a divorce situation with children this can be a big issue. The relationship becomes more damaged through the attacks and the children can suffer from the antagonistic relationship of the parents.

Mediation works to resolve issues in a way that gives both sides a win and protects the relationship in the process. Your Children are the only non-renewable parts to this. You can make more money, or heal yourself through therapy and forgiveness but you only get the one time through to develop your Children. You can’t go back and redo things to fix issues caused by improperly managed disputes.

Now let’s address the image chosen for this page above.  You may have thought “what an odd choice since that is not how my family is”.  I selected a family crossing a bridge together for a reason…you need to keep in mind how your Children see things…not how you do. They still need to see their family, their parents, still protecting them and helping them cross this bridge together. When it all comes down to it, this may be the most important thing you should fight for.

Evaluate Your Dispute for the Mediation Process

If your conflict has these types of qualities you will probably have a more satisfactory result using mediation.

  • Both sides can voluntarily work for a solution
  • The dispute involves family relationship that need to be
  • Both sides wish to save money
  • Both sides wish to save time
  • Both sides are seeking a reasonable agreement
  • Both sides wish to keep control over the outcome and not have a judgement forced upon them
  • The dispute involves children
  • Privacy is desired
  • A creative solution is important

There are numerous benefits to working toward a mutually satisfying agreement. Doing so, in many cases, improves the relationship between the parties. They are shown a healthy process of working together and finding mutual gain. The process is a powerful model for the children who need to see an effective way to deal with conflict. This is a big part of how the company got its name..Family Synergy Mediation…Families finding unexpected synergy through mediation.

Still Have Questions?

Family Synergy Mediation offers such a compelling and effective alternative to traditionally litigated disputes. Contact us if you are considering handling a sensitive dispute and we can review your situation and inform you of potentially advantageous options and valuable divorce management information. You can Contact the Divorce Mediator for free information, or Schedule a Free Mediation Consultation so you, and hopefully the other Party can hear the benefits together.

The Mediator is also offering a Virtual or Online Mediation option if it’s beneficial.

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