No one wants to participate in a legal battle with family members, but sometimes marriages go sour, money and assets must be divided, and children’s issues need to be decided. Many people find that hiring a lawyer to fight their battles is in their best interest, and often times, they are 100% correct.
An experienced, knowledgeable lawyer on your side ensures you’re protected in any legal conflict that may arise during a divorce, custody fight, estate division, or any other family law issue to settle. And going to court may be a necessary part of the process to settle the particular dispute you’re in with a family member.
Mediation Instead of Court
Fighting out legal problems in court is not your only option. If the thought of fighting with a current or former family member in a courtroom is not the best choice for you, then you may have another option: mediation. Sometimes mediation involves attorneys and sometimes it does not. Mediation is a “voluntary, consensual process that uses a trained, neutral third party to facilitate the negotiation of disputes.”
The goal of any mediation is to reach a binding settlement agreement without going to court. Typically, attorneys for the disputing parties are involved throughout the process of mediation, but it’s not a requirement that attorneys be involved for either side. Usually if one side has legal representation, the other side will, also. It probably would not be a fair fight if your opponent had a lawyer and you did not.
Mediation can be an effective alternative to litigating your marital and family issues while avoiding the complexity of court proceedings, and often times, mediation brings family law issues to resolution sooner than going to court.
When Does Mediation Begin?
There are basically two points at which disputing parties will begin mediation: prior to the filing of a lawsuit (in hopes the dispute will be settled amicably with a mediator) and after the filing of a lawsuit (when an equitable resolution was not achieved during the earlier stages of the process).
In order for pre-trial mediation to work in divorce and child custody issues, some conditions must exist. Both parties must be comfortable with their knowledge of the marital finances and able to trust the other side when it comes to the information and documents necessary to negotiate a fair and equitable distribution of assets and debts. If documents and account information is not shared by both parties, there will be problems, so verifying documents and accounts before mediation is essential. Mediators will often be asked to assist in verifying documents during the early stages of the process.
Parties sometimes choose mediation after a lawsuit is filed in hopes of settling their issues before going to court and dealing with all associated issues (costs and preparation). Mediating before a scheduled court hearing allows both parties to resolve their disputes regarding their finances and child custody issues “while still maintaining the benefit of the court’s protection of enforceability through court orders.”
Mediation, either pre- or post-lawsuit has proven to be a valuable tool that saves all parties involved in a legal dispute time and money. The best way to maximize the mediation process is to be fully prepared for all topics of discussion, whatever they may be. If you choose to have legal counsel advise you through this process, you’ll have his guidance along the way. Going it alone in family law mediation can be a mistake because with the guidance of a family law attorney, you will get an accurate picture of mediation works and how you may benefit from this valuable, time- and money-saving option to settle legal disputes.