What is family law mediation?

Divorces, legal separations, and child custody disputes are commonly fueled by much emotion from the parties directly involved with the proceedings. Often, matters related to family court can be filled with contentious feelings and resentment that can lead to long, drawn-out litigations in the court systems. Family law mediation utilizes a neutral third party, known as a mediator, to facilitate open communication and help the parties resolve their differences in a way that promotes voluntary input and decision-making.

The Role of the Mediator

Unlike a judge, a mediator does not decide what’s right or wrong for the family. Rather, this individual works with both parties to help each person come to a better understanding of the other party’s perspective. Once the lines of communication have been opened, the mediator will then discuss options for settlement. In this role, the mediator is simply the facilitator to the final outcome; he or she does not have the authority to impose a settlement on the parties.

Confidentiality in the Mediation Process

Family law mediation consists of two types of sessions. When both parties meet with the mediator at the same time, they are participating in a joint session. The mediator will also typically meet with each party individually. These sessions are known as private caucuses. Although much of the time mediators spend with the parties will be held in joint sessions, private caucuses are typically imperative to the process, as they allow each person to speak to his or her own experiences and needs without fearing judgment from the other party.

It is the goal of the mediator to obtain as much information as possible to help both parties come to a civil agreement. As such, there are times when the mediator may meet with one party for an extended period of time, while the other party may not require such lengthy meeting times. Generally speaking, conversations had behind closed doors are subject to confidentiality, and the information disclosed in these conversations is typically only intended to facilitate the flow of communication.

Should the parties choose to go to court after beginning family law mediation, communications that occurred, whether during private caucuses or joint sessions, are typically considered confidential and are not usually disclosed to the courts unless the parties agree to do so.

Advantages of Family Law Mediation

Because confidentiality is held to such a high standard in the mediation process, many find this alternative dispute resolution method to be more private than traditional court litigation. The process tends to be quicker and more efficient, providing a fluid and open line of communication with a reasonable end, which is agreed upon by both parties.

Family law mediation can be an excellent alternative to costly and adversarial court trials. For individuals who are interested in seeking mediation in lieu of traditional litigation, experienced family law attorneys often hold the key to successful, meaningful alternative dispute resolutions.


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