When a family law issue arises, mediation can be a positive way to resolve the issue outside of the court system. Family mediation is a method of conflict resolution designed to aid relatives in reaching agreement on a range of matters. For example, it can be used in divorce cases to help spouses address issues like child support, child custody, property division, and alimony. Additionally, family law mediation can be useful in resolving family business disputes or estate issues. Generally, family mediation, which is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), is less expensive, more informal, and faster than court or arbitration proceedings.
Family mediation is most common in separation or divorce proceedings. It can be used by married couples as well as by domestic partners or non-married parents. Through mediation, a separating or divorcing couple can collaboratively decide how to handle child custody and visitation arrangements. They can also settle finance and property issues and set payment schedules for child and spousal support. In addition, family mediation can be used to resolve post-divorce judgment issues.
Family businesses may also benefit from mediation in some cases, including partnership, contract, and small business disputes. For example, suppose that a family business is run by three sisters. If one of the sisters desires to invest money in a new product and the other two sisters do not, mediation can help them find a workable solution. Mediation can also be useful in helping relatives work through probate and estate issues relating to wills and trusts. Additionally, it can be a useful tool in determining care-giving arrangements for elderly relatives.
As a general rule, family mediation is a collaborative process and takes place in a relaxed, informal setting. Usually, the mediation is conducted by a family mediator who possesses special qualifications and who has experience working with families and children. Typically, family mediation attempts to help relatives work together in order to find the best solution for everyone. If the parties reach an agreement, it generally is not legally binding. The parties may, however, elect to enter into a legally-binding agreement after the mediation ends.
During the mediation, the parties usually have an opportunity to voice their needs and concerns. Additionally, a skilled mediator assists the parties in finding creative solutions that support the interests of all of the parties. These solutions are often unique and may not be available to the parties through traditional court vehicles. In most jurisdictions, family mediation is voluntary and confidential.