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There are many benefits to utilizing mediation as an alternative to going to court. Most notably, people like it because it takes less time, costs less and is less confrontational. This collaborative approach to resolving family law disputes like divorce or custody is well suited for families who do not wish to “battle it out in court” and can even provide new tools for resolving future disputes between parents.

The seven common forms of mediation

Different clients and attorneys have different approaches and goals for resolving matters, which is why there is more than one form of mediation. Discussing preferences during an initial consultation will be useful for starting the process.

  • Facilitative mediation: This is traditional mediation where a professional mediator tries to facilitate voluntary negotiation and resolution rather than arguing a case or passing judgment.
  • Evaluative mediation: The opposite of facilitative, the mediator in this format acts more like an impartial judge who makes suggestions and offers opinions based on current laws.
  • Court-mandated mediation: Judges often will ask the couple to resolve issues using evaluative mediation, leaving the court to handle areas where the two sides are further apart. This simplifies and speeds up the case.
  • Transformative mediation: Here the mediator encourages the couple to recognize the needs and wants of their counterpart. This can be particularly effective in providing dispute resolution tools as the couple moves forward as co-parents.
  • Med-Arb: This combines mediation and arbitration, using mediation first to try to resolve issues. Then if the two sides are at an impasse, arbitration begins (possible with a different arbitrator). The arbitrator generally listens to each side and then offers a binding decision.
  • Arb-Med: This starts with the arbitrator listening to the two sides and then writing an opinion that is sealed. The couple then turns to mediation – if there is an impasse, the two parties unseal the arbitrator’s decision.
  • E-mediation: This increasingly common format negotiates apart from each other. This is useful if the two parties are not located in the same city or state. It can also be helpful if the clients want to avoid being in the same room during the process.

Clients need to be committed to the process

It is best if the two sides are willing to go through the mediation process and understand that it is a collaborative one. The object is not to beat the other side, but to determine workable solutions that have the best chance of success as the family moves forward.