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In June 2014, Addicus Publishing released the book “Divorce in Washington”, which was authored exclusively by David Crouse.view all
Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution process that takes place outside of court and allows parties to work together towards a resolution with the assistance of their respective attorneys and a skilled mediator. Many couples resolve dissolution cases by using mediation. It is a great solution for resolving issues without the need for costly and lengthy court litigation.
If you are going through a divorce in Spokane, you are invited to call Crouse Erickson for a consultation. Our caring, knowledgeable attorneys and support staff can facilitate mediation, answer any questions you may have, and help you navigate this challenging process. Contact us today at 509-624-1380.
Mediation is an informal process where a neutral, third-party mediator helps a divorcing couple try to reach a settlement. Most family law mediators receive tens to hundreds of hours of training, learning how to help a divorcing couple negotiate.
During a mediation hearing, both parties and their attorneys will meet with a mediator whose goal is to facilitate compromise and help the couple agree upon terms. The meetings, which usually occur in an office, are much more informal than arbitration or a court hearing.
Unlike an arbitrator or judge, the mediator does not make any decisions; s/he does not decide who is right and who is wrong, and s/he cannot offer legal advice. S/he merely assists with conflict resolution and negotiating settlements.
If the parties can come to terms with the mediator’s help, the attorneys can write up the legal documents, which both parties will sign, and file it with the court for the judge’s approval.
There are several notable benefits of mediation:
It is much less expensive than going to trial and it is usually a simpler, less stressful process. The meetings are less formal and less adversarial than a courtroom experience. It is easier to talk face-to-face with a neutral mediator in your own private room than it is to testify on the witness stand in front of a judge who will carefully scrutinize the circumstances of your case and decide what will occur.
You do not need to meet with your spouse face-to-face. Most mediators meet with each party in separate conference rooms and will move back and forth between these rooms conveying offers and ideas for resolution. If a party so desires, the entire process can be completed without any face to face interaction.
Mediation meetings are typically more flexible than formal litigation, as well. The parties can arrange the meetings to suit their schedules rather than having to attend hearings on the court’s rigid docket. The parties get to decide upon the terms of their divorce in a way that works for them, rather than have a court that does not fully understand a couple’s dynamics and nuances decide. In mediation, the parties collectively decide on which issues to discuss. Neither party can use anything from the mediation hearings as evidence in a court proceeding, freeing both parties to express themselves and come to an amicable resolution. This process saves money on court and attorney’s fees and minimizes the stress of having to attend court.
If they reach a settlement, the parties will sign a written agreement. If they do not, the case will proceed on the litigation path.
Depending on where you live, you may be required to at least attempt mediation before you can proceed to litigate in a divorce, parenting plan dispute, or other family law case. Washington family law encourages parties in family law cases to attempt to resolve their disagreements as amicably as possible, especially when there are children involved in some way. The court is likely to view any prolonged or public disagreement between parents as harmful to the children, but the way it attempts to minimize conflict will vary by county. Some counties have established special family courts. In counties without family court, a judge may order mediation.
While courts can order mediation, they cannot require parties to come to an agreement. If the two sides are unable to work out an agreement, they can continue to move forward toward a trial. On the other hand, parties that wish to resolve their dispute in mediation rather than in court do not need a judge to order them to do so. Further, courts are very likely to uphold any property division, child custody or visitation arrangement, or spousal maintenance plan that parties agree to in mediation when they finalize a divorce.
Even though mediation is less formal than a hearing before a judge, there are still important legal rights at stake when you sit down to resolve a family law issue. How these rights are adjudicated will likely affect your personal and financial wellbeing for many years to come. Therefore, it is important to thoroughly understand your rights, what the law requires of you, and all of your available options before you attempt to negotiate a solution in front of a mediator. It is also important to organize your thinking and prioritize all the items on your “wish list,” so that you can be sure you walk away with the best possible deal. An experienced family law attorney will both know the law and the negotiation strategy that is critical to success in mediation, and therefore can provide extremely valuable advice as you prepare.
Our attorneys can represent you through the mediation process. Successful negotiation skills and strategy are the keys to obtaining a strong outcome in mediation. Our attorneys in Spokane can represent you during a mediation session and assist you in obtaining the best possible result for your case.
We can schedule mediation to resolve child custody and support issues, determine asset values and appropriate distributions, and to resolve other, highly contested issues. In the event that a deal cannot be struck in mediation, our attorneys are prepared to litigate on your behalf up to and through trial, if necessary.
We invite you to contact our firm to schedule a consultation to help you understand the process of mediation, how it may be best for your unique circumstances, and your rights during the mediation process. Call 509-624-1380 to speak with our team today, and to begin resolving any and all family law issues you are facing.