Be Prepared for Mediation Success

I have been a trained, court approved family law mediator for approximately a decade now.  In recent years, I have even started mediating other civil cases (the thought being that if I can handle two people going through a divorce who want to kill each other, I can surely handle a fender bender case).  In all that time mediating cases for other attorneys, I am surprised at the number of litigants who show up to mediation completely unprepared.

As we discussed in an earlier post mediation is often ordered by the court especially in custody cases.  Once mediation is ordered and schedule, you should sit down with your family law attorney to prepare yourself and discuss your mediation strategy.  This is a time when your attorney should explain the advantages of mediation (less cost, less time, less stress) as well as the mechanics of how the process works.  Discussing the mechanics at this point will save time during the actual mediation so you can get right down to the business of trying to settle your case.

During this meeting you and your lawyer should also go over what issues will be discussed at mediation.  Will you just discuss child custody?  Will you also discuss a property division?  Are you interested in trying to settle the entire case or do you just want to resolve some temporary issues for now?  Once you have decided what you will discuss at mediation, you and your attorney should go over some possible outcomes and scenarios.  I like to talk with my clients about what are the "hot button" issues; the points upon which they will not compromise or the ones they believe their spouse will not compromise.  When you have figured out the "hot button" issues, you can then go about determining the parameters within which you would be willing to settle.  Talk to your attorney about what he sees as your best day in court versus your worst day in court.  Be open with your attorney about your expectations so that he can either affirm those expectations or explain why they may be unrealistic.

Once you have met with your attorney prior to mediation, talk with your attorney about whether she will prepare a mediation statement to go the mediator ahead of time.  Some mediators request these statements, some do not, but I have never had a mediator flat our refuse to accept one.  The mediation statement is a confidential letter sent to the mediator to get the mediator up to speed on the case.  I usually will also include any pleadings from the case that I believe to be pertinent.  This letter is an opportunity to inform the mediator of your position in the case, what you are willing to settle, what you are not willing to settle, etc.  Again, this will help save time at mediation because the mediator is not coming into the process "blind."

While you may not be able to get everything settled at mediation, with the right preparation, you can certainly improve your chances of success.  If you have more questions, contact the Alford Law Office.

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