Divorce and other family law cases, such as child custody, often benefit from mediation. This out-of-court procedure can potentially save time, money, and stress by settling the case before it reaches the court. If you believe mediation is right for your case, you and the other party need a trusted family law attorney who knows how to walk you both through the process.
At Matteucci Family Law, Attorney Bob Matteucci can explore all options for resolving cases to the satisfaction of his clients. He will explain how mediation works and discuss whether it’s the best fit for your family law matter.
How does mediation work?
Mediation is a pre-trial proceeding designed to allow the parties in a family law case to discuss, negotiate, and possibly settle issues related to their matter. The process is governed by a neutral third party known as a mediator. The mediator is not a judge and has no stake in the outcome of the case.
The neutral third party is often an attorney, but it’s important to note this attorney does not represent either party. Rather, his or her job is to facilitate open and honest discussion of the issues so they can potentially be resolved. The attorney mediator should only meet and discuss matters with both parties present to maintain neutrality. Once the parties have reached an agreement, the lawyer will prepare the necessary paperwork to file.
Conversations that happen during mediation, including offers to settle, are confidential. That means neither side can use the opposing party’s statements against them later if mediation fails. For example, during a custody mediation, the other parent may offer you overnight visitation of three nights per week. If the parties later go to court, you cannot tell the judge that the other party offered you three nights when now they just want you to have two. Confidentiality is an important protection for both parties because it allows them to talk frankly as they explore possible settlements.
Mediation can take place in as many sessions as necessary to work out the issues in the case. You may use it to resolve your divorce or other family law dispute, such as child support. Although the mediator will ask the parties to discuss all issues so they can maximize the benefits of mediation, you are not compelled to settle everything. You may wish to settle alimony, for instance, and leave marital asset division to the court.
What are the benefits?
Parties generally want to be in control of the outcome of their family law case. The risk of going to court is having a stranger who doesn’t know you – the judge – make decisions that could affect your and your family’s lives for years to come. No one understands your case better than you and the other spouse or parent. Mediation allows you to settle the case on your terms.
To that end, mediation usually saves time, money, and the anxiety of wondering how a judge might rule in your dispute. If your matter goes to trial, you will have to pay attorney’s fees, and possibly expert witness fees, depending on the circumstances. Most people would prefer to wrap up their case with as little expense and heartache as possible so they can move on with their lives.
Also, mediation can help the parties effectively communicate with each other going forward. This is especially beneficial in cases where children are involved. After your case is settled, you will have to work with the other party in one way or another as you raise the child in separate households. It is much easier to do so if you and the other parent can learn to work together. If you can’t, there’s a good chance one or both of you will end up in court later on a motion to modify or contempt proceeding. You can use mediation now and in the future if one of you needs to change a prior order.
What happens at the end of mediation?
If your mediation is successful, it will result in a written agreement spelling out whatever the parties have agreed to. This will be translated into a Marital Settlement Agreement or another document, as appropriate, that will then be submitted to the court for the judge’s review. If the judge approves, it will then be incorporated into a court order.
On the other hand, if your mediation is not successful, then your divorce or other family law matter has to start over. The attorney who attempted to mediate your case cannot represent either of you. You can pursue mediation elsewhere, along with other options like an uncontested or traditional divorce.
Is mediation right for my case?
While mediation provides many advantages, it’s not right for every family law matter. These are some cases for which the process is generally not recommended:
- High-conflict matters
- Matters in which the parties are unable or unwilling to communicate with each other
- Cases involving allegations of domestic violence or child abuse
- Cases in which one party is suspected of hiding assets or information from the other
- Matters in which there is a major imbalance of power (e.g. financial resources) between the parties
- Cases in which one party psychologically dominates or manipulates the other
How can a family law attorney help me?
A skilled family law attorney can explain to you and the other party whether mediation is the best option. That means understanding the issues involved and whether any of the above problems (such as high conflict) are present. Even if your case starts off being contested, mediation may become an option later. A dedicated family law attorney will always keep mediation as a possible alternative, but will not pressure you into participating in it.
Your attorney will not represent either you or the other party during mediation. Instead, he will draw upon his knowledge and experience with New Mexico family law to attempt to guide you successfully to a resolution. That means making sure you and the other party have thoroughly considered all issues, including ones you may not have thought about. An attorney will also help you and the other party understand the legal consequences of the terms you agree to.
A successful mediation will require back and forth discussions and compromises from both parties. Offers and counter offers are typical. If an agreement is reached, the lawyer will prepare and file the necessary paperwork.
Contact a New Mexico Family Law Mediation Attorney Today
Divorce and family law cases are never easy, but mediation offers a chance to conclude your marriage quickly and with minimal expense. Contact Matteucci Family Law today. Bob Matteucci can review your case and consider whether mediation is the right choice.
Matteucci Family Law Firm helps families with family law mediation matters all across New Mexico including Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Los Lunas, and Rio Rancho.