Why Pay to Publicly Litigate when you can Privately Mediate?

by Terry R. Bankert  Attorney – Mediator

Dignity can be preserved in family disputes by the use of Mediation. Mediation is a method of resolving disputes and reaching agreements. In mediation, the mediator acts as an impartial person who assists the parties in negotiating with one another, offers information, and summarizes in writing any agreements reached by both parties. 

Mediation is not a new method of dispute resolution but is becoming more and more common. This process involves a neutral third party. With the advent of Michigan No-Fault Divorce, family law disputes and proceeding have become more appropriate for mediation. An adversarial approach to Divorce and other family issues is not always in the best interest of the parties. The mediator facilitates discussion through appropriate questioning, keeping parties focused on the issues, diffusing emotions of anger and hurt, and acts as an “umpire” in communication between the spouses and family.

The mediator agrees to keep all communication with either or both parties confidential with respect to third parties including the Court, unless given consent by the parties.

You can privately seek mediation before you file for Divorce. You also have a right to request that the Court order mediation. The Genesee County Friend of the Court is required to provide Mediation to assist parties in voluntarily settling child custody and parenting time disputes. Informal mediation through the Friend of the Court may also occur in other issues such as child support.

Any contested issue, such as property division; in a family law proceeding may be submitted to mediation throughout a divorce process. However, parties who are subject to Personal Protection Orders (PPO), or involved in child neglect or abuse proceeding will not be referred, and are not candidates for mediation without a hearing to determine if mediation is appropriate.

If the parties request, and the mediator agrees, the mediator will provide a written recommendation to the Court for settlement and further summarize any issues that remain unresolved at the conclusion of the mediation proceeding. This procedure is known as evaluative mediation. A Court may not submit contested issues to evaluative mediation unless all parties so request.

A family dispute mediator recognizes that it is best that the parties make the final decisions. This process relies on the parties’ willingness to arrive at their own informed decisions.  The mediation process is done in an impartial manner and can be terminated by either party, or by the mediator at any time during the coarse of the mediation process, if it is determined to be ineffective.

The Role of the Mediator

Assist each spouse to communicate with the other to work out an agreement.
Recognize the parties are the experts at their life and know their own needs.
Help each party say what needs to be said.
Assist the parties in moving the process of resolving the dispute forward.
To stay focused on the present and the future, not the past.

If Divorce is unavoidable, a positive and amicable outcome can be achieved without the expense of separate attorneys, and long drawn out, publicly litigated Courtroom dramas.