Allow me to paint a picture for you of what many people I have worked with within family law cases believe that their case will look like from beginning to end. The issue starts with a lot of stress because you have to go through extreme life changes associated with your family. Whether you are going through a divorce or child custody case, the fact is that you are shaking up what is likely the most significant point of stability that you have ever had in your life. Willingly putting an end to your marriage or two, your family life with your child as you knew it is a big step. It can be complicated even if it is the right thing to do. The decision to file a family law case requires some degree of bold action.
Once your case is filed, you still must talk to your children about the child custody circumstances or divorce. They are going to have many questions. Many of the questions they have will revolve around subject matter that you do not have a ready answer to or that you are not excited to answer in the first place. Either way, you inevitably have the duty to answer those questions to the best of your ability and the best extent possible considering their age. This will not be fun, but it is part of filing a family law case.
Once your family law case is officially underway, you move into a phase where you are not exactly sure what will happen. Are you going to be stuck in an endless loop of arguing or going over the same information again and again with your co-parent or opposing party? What are the possible outcomes in a contested child custody or divorce case? These are all relevant questions to ask yourself in a family law case, especially when you have never been involved in one before. The best that you can do is to learn information that could help you in the case and provide you with some Peace of Mind for the time being.
Like most things in life, it is the fear and concern over what you do not know and do not understand that can be such a burden for you at this time. When you hear just how difficult a family law case can be, you have reasonable cause to be worried or concerned. However, I want to spend today’s blog post discussing a topic that might help you call your concerns and increase your likelihood of moving forward with the case.
That is one of the most complex parts of this process. Many people choose not to even begin a family law case out of concern based on what others have heard. However, be aware that so much can be lost in translation, especially when you hear from people who have only negative things about your chances of achieving a successful result in your case. Therefore, we can share with you some information today that should put you at ease thinking about a divorce or child custody case and your chances of success once you decide to file this type of case.
The great equalizer in a child custody or divorce case is mediation. Many people in your shoes have never heard of mediation, and if they have, they may be unclear about the benefits it can provide to you and your family. Without a doubt, mediation helps people of all types achieve success in situations that might have seemed impossible or, at the very least, extremely difficult to deal with. Since this is such an important subject that may go under-discussed in many circumstances, we should take some time and walk you through as many circumstances as possible to better understand how to utilize mediation to your advantage and the advantage of your family.
What is mediation?
Mediation is the sort of step involved in a family law case that does not get much attention but is possibly the most effective, efficient, and essential part of the entire process. I like to joke with clients that if we could only send people to mediation immediately after filing a divorce or child custody case, we could save everyone a lot of time and money. While that is not precisely what is done in these cases, I can tell you that mediation is typically a part of a family law case before a temporary order hearing and a trial. Here is what you need to know about mediation.
Mediation is the process whereby you and your attorney and your opposing party and their attorney agree to name a third party to intercede on your behalf to help you resolve the outstanding issues of your case. Most frequently, this means using a mediator to help you bridge the gap on any problems you have not yet been able to settle between yourselves. You all would attend an in-person mediation session at the office of your mediator. These days some virtual mediations are possible, but it is my experience that in-person mediation works better.
You and your attorney and your spouse and their attorney will be in separate offices at the mediator’s office. The mediator would then act like a ping pong ball bouncing back and forth in between your room in that of your opposing party. Settlement offers could be relayed regarding custody issues if you have children, child support, Community property if yours is a divorce case and any number of subjects that need to be dealt with before a hearing or trial. Suppose you have not been able to settle informally with your spouse or opposing party on a specific subject. In that case, you bring that information to mediation and see if a mediator can help you bridge the gap.
The reality is that mediation is very successful at helping folks to avoid going to trials or hearings in family law cases. I would estimate that upwards of 90% of patients who attend mediation resolve most of their issues in mediation. Without a doubt, there is something about having an outside party be actively involved in the process with you, along with the knowledge that a deadline to get a settlement is done that frequently spurs people into action. It’s amazing what a deadline and concerted effort towards a shared goal can do for two people. This is true even for people who do not see eye to eye on much of anything related to their case.
The alternative to settling in mediation
if you cannot pay your case in mediation, the choice would be to attend a contested hearing or trial, depending on what stage of your case. There is nothing wrong with having to do this, and you may find that this is a better venue depending upon the circumstances of your case. However, remember that a judge has the final say in your matter when you go into a courtroom. Whereas in mediation, you and your opposing party do. If it’s up to me, I will trust myself and my opposing party to develop a solution that works better for our family rather than relying upon a family court judge who has no specific knowledge of us at the beginning of a hearing or trial. It has more information than that, barely even after the hearing or trial.
Another factor to consider as an advantage of mediation over going to court is money and time. Indeed, money is not always the most important thing to a person in a divorce case. So often, we focus on financial issues surrounding divorce, however. The cost of paying an attorney to represent you, issues surrounding making sure that your spouse he’s honest with you but financial issues inside the divorce, and many other factors related to money in your case. With that said, when it comes down to it, finances are not the only important issue in the case, but indeed, they are one crucial issue. With that said, mediation can’t help you decrease the costs of your divorce.
One thing that I think everyone going through a divorce can agree on is limiting the costs of their case. Nobody wants to spend more money than they absolutely must on a divorce. With all the changes that come with the divorce case, most of us would rather spend our money elsewhere. This is also true of people going through child custody cases. If you have kids, you would rather spend your money on your children than on anything associated with the divorce.
One of the realities of a divorce case is that a trial is expensive. Going to trial may be necessary, but it is not what anyone would call expensive. Sending a day or two in court can end up costing more than the rest of your case combined. Often, the people going through a divorce will see the overall costs of their case increase dramatically based on going to court for a trial. If you think it would be wise, as I do, to avoid these costs if possible, then mediation is a great way to do so. Since mediation is so effective at helping people settle their cases, it would make sense that this is probably the most effective way to determine the likelihood of a trial. If nothing else, it will reduce the number of issues you have to set forth to the judge and, therefore, reduce the amount of time you will be spending in court overall.
On top of that, we can also consider the time element of a divorce or child custody case. At the same time, money is undoubtedly an essential topic in any child custody or divorce trial; at least with money, you can always make more of it. Our world is well set up for you to make more money for yourself and your family. It may be easier or more difficult for you to do so than other people but finding a way to supplement your income is not impossible.
On the other hand, there is no way to regain time lost. Sometimes it is necessary to go to a trial. By no means do I think that it is a waste of time to go to trial under any circumstances. However, all things being equal, it will be great for you to avoid a problem if a similar result can be obtained in mediation. There is nothing brave or noble about going to trial. Many people think that practice means standing by your convictions and doing what you feel is right. However, this is only true if You cannot obtain a fair result in mediation or Informal settlement negotiations.
The time you commit to a trial could be spent preparing for your life after the family law case is over. Additionally, you could be spending that time to help you and your child adjust to your new lives or to do something more productive than a 10-day trial. The trouble with deciding about whether it pays to go to trial is that you probably do not have the experience to have a well-formed opinion one way or the other. Therefore, it is so important to have an experienced family law attorney by her side throughout this process. An attorney can help you determine which case has merit to go to trial and which does not.
Closing thoughts on the benefits of mediation in a family law case
The most challenging part about discussing the benefits of mediation is that every person’s case is different. While it is true that most people, we’ll see benefits to their case by tending mediation, this is not true for everyone. The subject matter of your specific case Will ultimately determines how effective mediation will be. The only natural way to have any sense of how strong your case is or what sort of chance you must settle in mediation will be to hire an experienced family law attorney.
Another aspect of this discussion is regarding putting yourself in a position where you can have a reasonable conversation with your opposing party in hopes of settling your case. Many people I have worked with over the years will shrug their shoulders and say that their opposing party is someone they cannot work with on any level. I would tell you about mediation because this is a setting where even people who disagree on many ticks can come together to solve their problems in a comfortable environment.
I think part of the reason why mediation is so successful is that you do not have to speak to your spouse directly. Many people find that even a sideways glance or role of the eyes in conversing with their opposing party can be enough to ruin any opportunity to have a constructive conversation. The beauty of mediation is that this communication element with your Co-parent or spouse is completely taken out of the equation. The mediator acts as the conduit for conversation between you and your spouse. You have all the benefits of having messages communicated to the other side without doing the work yourself. This also removes some of the emotion and animosity between the two of you so that you can better think clearly and rationally about the problems you have been encountering. Something as simple as this can be enough to push a case from extremely difficult to settle to one where a settlement is more likely than not.
The bottom line is that you can be confident of mediation in a sense that it almost certainly gives you a better chance to reach a fairer outcome in your family law case sooner than you would be able to have achieved that outcome if you had to go all the way to a trial. Mediation is less stressful and less expensive than a trial or hearing. With that said, it is worth your while to speak to an experienced family law attorney to learn more about your case and how mediation can help you and your family.
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