Family and Divorce Mediation

Divorce and other types of family law proceedings, including child custody cases, represent some of the most legally challenging and emotionally difficult types of legal actions in courts across the United States. Because of the nature of these types of cases, divorce mediation or family mediation becomes necessary in these proceedings. A person heading into or already involved in a divorce of another type of family law proceeding is well served understanding the basics of this types of mediation.


The Essentials of Family Mediation and Divorce Mediation

Mediation is a process through which an independent third party assists disputing parties in reaching an agreement. A mediator does not make decisions for the parties. Rather, a family mediator or a divorce mediator facilitates discussion and negotiation between the parties to a family law dispute.

Divorce mediation commonly involves issues that involve child custody or parenting time. (Parenting time is the legal term now used for visitation in the vast majority of jurisdictions in the United States.) Disputes over property and debt accumulated during the course of a marriage also tend to be issues involved in the divorce mediation process.

Family mediation typically involves post divorce matters involving the sum of the same types of issues confronted in the divorce mediation process. The most common types of issues dealt with through the post divorce mediation process include those associated with parenting time (visitation) and custody.


Mandatory Mediation

Recognizing the importance and effectiveness of the mediation process, a growing number of jurisdictions in the United States have elected to require mediation in certain types of family law proceedings. For example, when a couple in a divorce (or in post divorce proceedings) dispute issues relating to child custody and parenting time (or visitation), mediation is automatically required if the parties cannot reach an agreement between themselves.

In other words, rather than heading to a formal court hearing, parents must attempt family mediation as a means to resolving conflicts and disagreements associated with child custody and parenting time (or visitation). Only if the mediation process fails will the parties to these types of disputes litigate the matter in a formal court hearing.


Elective Mediation

In those jurisdictions lacking mandatory mediation requirements in certain situations, the parties to a divorce or other type of family law proceeding may request to participate in divorce mediation or family law mediation either when the reach an impasse or as a means of being proactive and avoiding the prospect of ending up in loggerheads in regard to an issue in a case.

In jurisdictions in which in which mediation is an option, courts typically maintain lists of approved, or at least recommended, family law and divorce mediators. In some locales, the list of available mediators is even further refined to indicate specializations. For example, certain mediators may specialize in custody and parenting time disputes while others focus on financial matters.

Keep in mind that the parties to a divorce or other type of family law proceeding typically are responsible for the costs associated with the mediation process.