What Is Mediation?
You have probably heard the term mediation before, but you may not know what exactly it is. In legal terms, mediation is the process by which two individuals, with their lawyers, meet with a neutral third-party mediator to resolve their issues and come to mutually agreeable terms regarding their legal matter. Mediation is often used in family law disputes, such as divorce settlements, custody agreements, and alimony agreements.
Certified mediators can be incredibly helpful to those struggling to agree. A mediator must remain neutral, cannot force an agreement, and remains focused on the mutual benefit of both parties involved. Many clients have reported that the mediation process helped them feel heard and more in control.
As mediation gains popularity, many misconceptions about the process continue to circulate. Unfortunately, many people who would benefit from mediation, do not seek it out because of this. At The Virga Law Firm, P.A., we have seen firsthand the benefits of mediation, and we are here to debunk some of the more pervasive myths.
Myth 1: The Mediator Will Dictate a Resolution
Mediation is not arbitration. The goal of the mediator is to help facilitate a resolution between you and the other party. It is not their job to make determinations for you. In fact, they may not even make recommendations. Instead, they will work to help you and the other party negotiate a solution that is amenable to both of you.
Mediation is a collaborative process, and the mediator will act as an impartial guide. During the mediation appointment, you will meet in a group setting with the other party and their lawyer and individually with the mediator and your lawyer.
Read our blog to learn more about the mediation process.
Myth #2: You Don't Need a Lawyer
You should always have legal representation when going into a mediation session. Because the mediator is impartial, they are not there to ensure that your legal rights are protected. Therefore, you need to have your attorney with you. Not only does your attorney have a full understanding of your case, but they also have your best interests in mind. They can help prevent you from entering into an unfair agreement or making an unfavorable legal decision. They can also help you work towards an agreement that is more likely to be accepted by the courts.
Myth #3: It Is Better to Fight Out Your Case in Court
There are a lot of reasons why mediation may be a better route than court litigation. The first being that when you take your case before a judge, it becomes part of the public record and is no longer private. The lack of privacy in family court matters is unappealing to a lot of people. If you work with a mediator to resolve your dispute, your personal business can stay private.
Additionally, when you take your case to court, whether it is a divorce or custody case, you lose control over the outcome. While the courts work to make determinations that are fair and equitable, they do not always have a full picture of your situation. They may make determinations that are not favorable to you or which do not meet you or your family's needs.
Furthermore, if you are dealing with a custody issue, mediation offers an opportunity to begin developing your co-parenting relationship with your child's other parent. Because mediation is a collaborative process that encourages working together to reach a resolution, it is a good first step for new co-parents.
Myth #4: Mediation Never Works
Whether you have chosen to work with a mediator yourself or have been ordered to by the courts, you may be worried by this myth. While mediation is not for everyone, it can be surprisingly helpful. It works best in situations where you and the other party can communicate openly. However, because it provides a structured environment free of the courtroom's stress, even individuals who struggle to relate to each other have found success. If both parties are committed to coming to a resolution and are open-minded, they are more likely to be successful during mediation.
Before engaging in mediation, you should consult with your attorney. They can help you determine if mediation is appropriate for your case and whether they think it would benefit you. Mediation is typically not suitable for high-conflict situations or situations in which domestic violence or abuse have been an issue.
Myth #5: Mediation Is More Expensive than Going to Court
Many clients are surprised to learn that mediation can be significantly less expensive than litigating their case in court. Mediation sessions are generally only a couple of hours, though they can be handled over the course of a few days. This is significantly faster than court cases, which can take weeks or months to resolve. Because of the extended court process, you and your lawyer will spend a lot more time preparing for and attending litigation. The longer a case takes, the more it costs you. Additionally, with mediation, you do not have court fees.
Are you considering mediation for your divorce, custody, or other family law matter? Turn to The Virga Law Firm, P.A. for guidance.