What is Mediation?

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mediation tips and information

Mediation in family law cases is now required in most Iowa counties. It occurs in many different types of matters and the style of mediation often varies based upon the type of situation, individual mediator, regional norms, and other factors. 

Here are details about mediation specifically in the context of family law matters within central and some of southwest Iowa.

What is Mediation?  A mediation is a facilitated discussion with the goal of finding solutions to issues in dispute. The mediator will first familiarize parties with the mediation process and ask questions geared toward learning about the parties’ situation and concerns. The mediator will then work with the parties, together or in separate spaces, in finding possible terms of mutual agreement. The mediator helps clarify challenge areas and assists the parties in developing new ideas and solutions that often have not been contemplated previously. Finally, the mediator may document in writing the terms of any agreements that have been reached by the parties.

Who is a Mediator?  A mediator is a neutral third party who helps facilitate discussion between two or more parties in an effort to find mutually agreeable resolutions for matters in dispute.  Anyone can become educated to do mediation, however, family law mediators are trained and certified specifically in domestic relations issues. A mediator is not a judge or arbitrator and does not have authority to make decisions about your case or situation. 

When is Mediation Appropriate?  Mediation is generally useful in nearly any conflict situation, family related or otherwise. Parties do not need to be in the throws of a pending legal proceeding to work with a mediator. Although that is often still the most common scenario in which mediation is utilized, nowadays more couples looking to divorce or separate are connecting with a mediator to resolve issues in dispute prior to retaining lawyers or at least prior to filing a case with the court.

Is It Confidential?  During the mediation, the mediator is generally able to share information back and forth between the parties even if they are in separate spaces. However, a participant may ask the mediator to keep certain information from being disclosed, in which case the mediator must keep the information provided, but not authorized to be shared, with the mediator only. All statements made in mediation are considered part of a settlement negotiation made for the purpose of compromise. Accordingly, such statements are not admissible in court. In other words, all information given to the mediator is confidential and, in most instances, the mediator cannot be compelled to testify other than to verify the date, time, and location of a mediation and the existence of an agreement reached and signed during mediation.

How Much Does It Cost?  Most mediators charge a regular hourly rate, which must be paid in full at the conclusion of the mediation.  In addition, there may be an administrative fee charged by the entity responsible for coordinating mediations within the county or judicial district. Often parties are expected to each pay one half of the total cost of a mediation with payment being due at the end of the mediation session.

What Issues Does a Family Law Mediation Cover?  All aspects of a case or situation may be discussed and settled through mediation, including issues such as child custody matters, co-parenting arrangements, child and medical support, division of assets and liabilities, alimony, and so forth.

May I Speak with My Attorney During Mediation?  Your lawyer may be present at the mediation and you have the right to speak with your attorney either privately or with the mediator present at any time. If you have an attorney but your attorney is not present, let the mediator know right away if you wish to consult with your attorney by phone or otherwise before going further. Parties are responsible for any fees related to their attorneys’ participation.

How Long Does Mediation Last?  It depends. The readiness of the parties to resolve the issues, the level of conflict between the parties, and the complexity of the issues in dispute all factor in. Mediation sessions are typically set for three (3) hours, but they can be shorter or longer depending on how quickly things progress within the process. Sometimes parties do not reach a full agreement in the first mediation session, but they have made progress and agree to schedule another session at a later date.

Is a Mediation Agreement Legally Binding?  Generally, yes, a mediation agreement signed by the parties is considered a legally enforceable contract and is later incorporated into a court order through the assistance of the parties’ legal counsel. If either of the parties subsequently attempts to back out of the agreement, the other party may ask the court to enforce the agreement.

Does Mediation Really Work?  Recent studies in central Iowa show that mediation results in settlement of all or part of the issues in dispute in approximately 75% of cases. Even in cases where mediation does not result in a full settlement agreement between the parties, the process helps parties narrow the relevant facts and issues, which reduces the time and expense associated with later going to court if needed. In addition, studies show that parties are generally more satisfied with agreements reached through their own mutual efforts in mediation than with court orders entered by a judge after an emotional, time-consuming, and expensive litigation.

For more information in relation to mediation and your own legal needs, simply go to www.lawshop.net and click on “Get Started.”

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