Mediation is the process by which the couple meets with a neutral party to discuss ways of resolving the issues at hand. If the parties are represented by attorneys then the attorneys are encouraged to attend; however, it is not required. Ideally, the mediator should be well versed in the issues to be resolved in the mediation. The mediator cannot force anyone to agree to anything, although the Judge can order you to go to mediation and cooperate. The mediator will meet the parties together and separately to see if a compromise can be reached, or even try to straighten out a party who may be unrealistic in their demands or expectations.
There are different phases that the mediation process goes through. Initially, the parties will meet with the mediator and discuss the background information and the facts of their particular situation. This approach is usually determined by the communication between the parties and the issues that need to be resolved.
Next is the information gathering stage. The parties will provide the mediator with information pertinent to their situation. If the parties can't agree, it is the responsibility of the mediator to help them come up with the options available to resolve the disagreements.
The third phase of the process is determining the issues that need to be resolved. Once all the issues have been put on the table the parties will move to the next phase-negotiation. Now the mediator helps the parties explore the options that are available for settlement. During negotiations the parties would usually come up with various scenarios of settlement options. Once the scenarios that are totally unacceptable are eliminated the parties will be better able to see the options that are workable. Often in this phase it may become apparent to the parties the areas where possible trade-off can be made to balance out the settlement. When all the issues have been agreed upon, a preliminary settlement is drawn up. At this time if the participants have decided to seek the opinion of a legal professional they would have the document reviewed. Any revisions that are needed are made. Once the agreement is completed both parties sign it. Remember that every state has different laws. If the court must approve your settlement it must be submitted for review. Upon approval it then becomes a legally binding agreement.
My practice focuses on providing Divorce & Family Mediations in Tampa, Florida and I welcome the opportunity to assist you in any way I can. Once an agreement is reached, then review the uncontested process below as now your case will follow along the same process.