Mediation is often required in Colorado divorce, support and child custody cases. Typically after someone files for divorce and notifies the other party, the first court date is set, at which the court will set a deadline for mediation to occur.
Mediation can be an outstanding tool or a complete waste of time and money. Whether mediation is useful depends more on the parties themselves than which mediator is used.
The general process of mediation is the same for most mediators. Parties usually receive instructions prior to the mediation appointment which usually include an agreement to mediate in good faith. When the parties arrive, they are usually placed in separate rooms, with a mediator moving from room to room, attempting to negotiate a solution to the unresolved issues. Usually mediators begin by encouraging each party to simply express their primary goals and concerns. Then the mediator will begin to suggest resolutions that may be acceptable to both sides, and will convey these solutions along with any suggested by the parties until agreement is reached.
Parties to mediation should clarify a couple of points as early as possible. First, the parties or their attorneys should establish their intent to have attorneys present with them for mediation, as well as any other people who may need to be present to assist with resolution. Most mediators prefer to hear directly from the parties, rather than speaking only with attorneys, as is more common in a courtroom.
Mediation is a more casual and open environment than a courtroom, and that fact can help achieve good results. However, it brings up the second point: parties should clarify how much of that casual conversation will be shared with the other side before mediation begins. Some mediators will feel free to share anything you tell them with the other party. Others will only disclose information you specifically authorize. Although mediation almost always requires an agreement signed by both parties that neither will attempt to call the mediator as a witness later in the case, it is a good idea to know exactly how much of your conversation will be disclosed to the other side during mediation, and monitor your conversation.
When all parties to a domestic case approach mediation with a good faith desire to resolve the issues that remain open, the resulting agreement will almost always save significant time and money. Like most aspects of family law, the total cost and time is usually dependent on how much the parties can agree on. Of course, that means one party can hold up the process, frustrating the other side and often the court.
Good mediators can suggest solutions outside those already considered by the parties, and can open communication that was previously thought to be unproductive. But no amount of progress in mediation is useful if the parties later change their mind. The best option following a particularly productive mediation session is to create a signed, stipulated motion for the court where that is possible. If that is not practical, at the very least a signed memorandum of understanding is a must.
If you are considering mediation, or are scheduled for mediation, you would very likely benefit from representation by an attorney focused on domestic practice. Call my office and schedule a consultation to see how I can help you.