the Mediation Division of Leigh Law
What is Mediation?
Mediation is a form of “Alternative Dispute Resolution,” which is a fancy way of saying it is an alternative to the traditional model of going to court and letting a judge decide. It is much less stressful, less time consuming, and often much less expensive. Studies show that all parties are happier and tend to follow agreements reached through mediation better than court orders. The process is a facilitated process based on trainings and studies which move parties toward a resolution. It is not therapy or counseling.
Tori’s role as Mediator
As a mediator, Tori helps the parties negotiate a settlement which both parties can live with. Mediating a case removes the guess-work for parties; particularly in the area of domestic relations where parties will have to maintain some kind of relationship for the sake of shared children, mediation provides a process where each party walks away with the ability to co-parent. Parents are happier, more satisfied, and likely to follow an agreement they have developed themselves as opposed to a plan that a judge forces on the parties.
Tori as a mediator has an equal and balanced responsibility to assist each mediating party and cannot favor the interests of any one party over another, nor should the mediator favor a particular result in the mediation. Tori is ethically obligated to acknowledge any substantive bias on issues in discussion. The mediator’s role is to ensure that parties reach agreements in a voluntarily and informed manner, and not as a result of coercion or intimidation.
Mediators are trained in working with difficult situations. The mediator acts as a neutral facilitator and guides the parties through the process. The mediator helps the parties think “outside of the box” for possible solutions to the dispute, broadening the range of possible solutions and increasing the chances of avoiding a trial. Tori has hours and hours of training and experience in mediating cases and is very effective at obtaining positive results which benefit clients in the long run.
Mediation goes beyond “negotiations”
Mediation is a structured process which has been developed the last twenty years that goes far beyond ordinary “negotiations” between parties without the aid of a trained, neutral third party. The process is private and confidential; the mediated agreement (if reached) is enforceable by a judge as a contract. Participation is generally voluntary (although some judges order it). The benefits of Mediation include:
While a mediator may charge a fee comparable to that of an attorney, the mediation process generally takes much less time than moving a case through standard legal channels. While a case in the hands of a lawyer or a court may take months or years to resolve, mediation usually achieves a resolution in a matter of hours. Taking less time means expending less money on hourly fees and costs. There is also a federally funded program available to domestic relations clients which provides no cost or reduced cost (depending on income) mediation services to resolve child custody, visitation, and child support issues.
While court hearings are public, mediation remains strictly confidential. No one but the parties to the dispute and the mediator or mediators know what happened. Confidentiality in mediation has such importance that in most cases the legal system cannot force a mediator to testify in court as to the content or progress of mediation. Many mediators destroy their notes taken during a mediation once that mediation has finished. The only exceptions to such strict confidentiality usually involve child abuse or actual or threatened criminal acts.
Mediation increases the control the parties have over the resolution. In a court case, the parties obtain a resolution, but control resides with the judge or jury. Often, a judge or jury cannot legally provide solutions that emerge in mediation. Thus, mediation is more likely to produce a result that is mutually agreeable for the parties.
Because the result is attained by the parties working together and is mutually agreeable, compliance with the mediated agreement is usually high. This further reduces costs, because the parties do not have to employ an attorney to force compliance with the agreement. The mediated agreement is, however, fully enforceable in a court of law.
Parties to a mediation are typically ready to work mutually toward a resolution. In most circumstances the mere fact that parties are willing to mediate means that they are ready to “move” their position. The parties thus are more amenable to understanding the other party’s side and work on underlying issues to the dispute. This has the added benefit of often preserving the relationship the parties had before the dispute.