In cases involving children, the parties must attend mediation unless the court decides that there is a special reason that the parties should not go to mediation.
In cases that do not involve children, the court may order the parties to mediate or the parties may agree to mediate.
In addition to attorney's fees, each party must pay the court an $80.00 fee for court sponsored mediation. If either party cannot afford to pay this fee, they can ask the court to waive the mediation fee by filing an Application to Proceed Without Payment of Fees.
Mediation is a settlement conference. Different Mediators have different
styles, but usually there is a brief meeting of each side alone with the mediator.
Sometimes the mediator starts with just the lawyers to get an idea of the case.
When you are alone with the mediator (and attorney, if any) at the beginning, the law requires that the mediator ask if there was any domestic violence between the parties or if they feel threatened being in the same room with their ex across the table. If so, the mediator may keep the parties in separate rooms and run back and forth with the offers and counter offers. This process will probably be followed at your Mediation.
The mediator is a person hired by the court to assist the parties' in trying to settle their case. The mediator has no power to decide any issues. The mediator does not report to the Judge on where the negotiations stood and reports only that the
case did not settle, or was continued, or did settle. In some cases the mediator reports that certain issues (e.g., child custody) was resolved while other issues (e.g., child support) were not. If it settles, the mediator submits of the terms right then.
The mediator may or may not be a lawyer. However, the mediator does not represent either party and should not give legal advice. The mediator may assist the parties in calculating child support. However, a mediator may or may not be qualified to deal with more complex child support issues and will not be liable to either party for making a mistake in calculating child support.
No. However, the law requires that the parties mediate "in good faith". This means that each party must listen to what the other side has to say and make reasonable demands.
The best way to prepare for mediation is to know exactly what result you want
to achieve. You should write down on a piece of paper the specific results that
are desired. If you hire a lawyer, you should go over the list with him/her. If in your case there are 35 different items of personal property that you want, you
need to have that list with you at Mediation. If there are 6 different credit cards,
you need to know the balances that are owed. The best way to guarantee that
the result is going to be unsatisfactory is to not know what results you want. It is
also part of the reason that deals fall apart. Part of what makes Mediation work
is the pressure to sign off right there. Thus, you need to make lists, etc.,
beforehand. If you have a lawyer, he or she should advise you on legal language or if something that you think you want in the case cannot be done because the Court doesn't have the power to do it. The most common problem is to have reached an agreement and then discover that one or both parties forgot to discuss something at mediation.
Only the parties, the lawyers and the mediator will be at Mediation. Others might be allowed under special circumstances but generally not. You can bring a friend, but they will be outside the room. If it is somebody that makes your ex see red, it is probably not a good idea.
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