A growing number of courts are requiring parties going through family law cases to attempt to mediate their disputes before they are given a hearing date. I admit, I used to be a mediation naysayer before cases I sent to mediation kept getting settled. Now, I actually mediate cases for other lawyers and have a pretty good success rate.
What I have found is the great advantage of mediation is the fact that it actually puts the power back in the hands of the parties. By going to a final hearing, you are entrusting your family and your future to a judge whose only knowledge of your family is what he/she learns from reading the pleadings and what she can learn in just a few hours of a hearing. In mediation, the parties are free to craft an agreement that may not work for any other family, but it actually works for that family. The odds of having a successful mediation are increased exponentially by actually preparing for your mediation.
I am consistently amazed with the number of people who show up for mediations completely unprepared. While you do not necessarily need to bring every exhibit you would introduce at a final hearing. If you are going to discuss child support, you should at least bring your income information.
Another opportunity that many people never take advantage is to send information to the mediator before the mediation. Whenever, I schedule a mediation, I send a letter to the parties or their attorneys and to explain the process to them and inform them that I will review any information they wish to send me ahead of time. Some don't send anything and some send a few of the pleadings. However, the ones that improve their chances of success the most are the ones that actually write up a brief summary of their case and provide the mediator with a frank evaluation of the merits of their case, its relative weaknesses and what points on which they are willing to give ground. Such letters are kept in the strictest of confidence by the mediator, but still give the mediator an idea of what issues are most important to that party. Often being able to identify the issues that can be resolved the easiest, helps build momentum and increases the chances of resolving the bigger issues.
People find that, in the long run, they are much happier and satisfied with a mediated result which they had a hand in crafting than with one that is forced on them by the judge. Your chance of getting such a result are greatly improved with a little planning. This is your chance.