Understanding The Role of a Family Mediator

Family Mediator

A family mediator plays a vital role in helping families settle disputes outside of a formal legal setting. Family disputes and divorce are often difficult for couples and other family members to navigate. The family dynamics and relationships can make conflict resolution a daunting or seemingly impossible task. Having a conversation with the other party without conflict can be overwhelming without having to come up with possible solutions for an agreement. Throw in children and parenting plans; suddenly, an agreement seems like a distant goal.

However, mediation can be a valuable tool to address even the most difficult of family dynamics and help families find a resolution. This article will outline how family mediation can be a helpful tool for divorce and other family conflict.

The Family Mediation Process

To start, let’s discuss the mediation process for divorce and other family matters. Mediation is a legal process where the parties meet with each other to discuss and explore options to resolve the conflict. It can be a formal process with a mediator and attorneys, or it can be more informal with just the parties and a person who focuses the negotiations on the interests of both parties. Mediation is like a guided negotiation, with the mediator following the lead of the parties to reach an agreement.

Once the parties have decided to use mediation, they contact a mediator or have one assigned. The parties and mediator gather and give opening statements, where the mediator lays out the rules and guidelines for the mediation, and the parties present an overview of their position, possibly informally presenting evidence to back up what they are asking for. Then, the mediator meets with each party and their attorney to help identify their interests and find a possible solution.

If the parties can agree on a resolution, they will sign an agreement with the terms discussed and will often put the settlement in a court order to be enforced. Because divorce is a legal process, the agreement will need to be confirmed in an order that ends the marriage. Most mediations will end with some kind of compromise between the parties opening positions.

The Family Mediator’s Role

In mediation, the mediator helps the parties identify and discuss ways to resolve the case and determine the best course of action. Successful mediators will not always find the perfect solution, but they will often help the families find new options to discuss and may encourage the dispute to be resolved in a later interaction. They function as a guide for the parties during negotiations and help them identify new areas that can help either party find new compromises.

A mediator cannot give legal advice, which is why many mediators will request that the parties involve lawyers in mediation. This ensures that each person understands the implications of a decision and can ask for advice before they sign any agreement. Mediators also cannot provide counseling or encourage the parties to take an offer.

The Goals of Family Mediation

When the parties request mediation, they are often hoping to accomplish a goal with the mediation, such as avoiding difficult litigation or subjecting the family to further trauma.

Problem Solve

Mediation is a problem-solving mechanism. It is focused on a specific issue or set of issues to resolve. It will not address the underlying dynamics and issues that the family has going on but instead will find a way for the family to exist together or apart in the future.

If the family is looking to resolve the underlying issues and dynamics or looking for counseling to help understand why there are problems, family therapy may be a good option. In family therapy, a therapist will work with the family to address the underlying issues that they are facing to avoid problems and conflict in the future, or at least be able to handle it well.

Avoid Court

Family court can be difficult to navigate for the family, especially if they are attempting to get divorced without lawyers. Court and attorneys will cost additional money, and the judge, not the couple, is left to decide what will happen with the property and children. For this reason, many families will choose to participate in mediation rather than deal with a judge in family court because when they sign a mediation agreement, they can control all aspects of the issues.

Special Considerations for Family Mediators

There are a few circumstances where the parties may choose to forego mediation and opt for other forms of dispute resolution or litigation. While there are no laws against using mediation to resolve these cases, it can be more difficult.

Domestic Violence

The biggest question many people have when considering mediation for family law disputes is whether they can use mediation if there is violence between the parties. While violence is not an immediate disqualifier, the mediator will likely need to do extra work to ensure that the negotiation remains fair and balanced and that the space is safe for everyone.

Child Custody and Support

Some specific considerations and issues may need to be addressed when dealing with child custody and support. While each parent would normally have the right to decide how to care for their children, laws are in place to ensure that the parenting plans benefit the children. Calculating child support may also require an in-depth look at either parent’s finances. In these instances, special training is often required for mediators.

Final Thoughts

If you are looking to use mediation for your family, you will need to ensure that the mediator is specifically trained to provide help with the determinations. Mediation can be helpful, but if the parties and the mediators do not understand the implications of an agreement, it may send them right back to court.

To learn more about the role of a family mediator, family mediation, and alternative dispute resolution, contact ADR Times today!

Emily Holland
error: ADR Times content is protected.