Choose Your Family Law Mediator Wisely
In certain divorce cases, mediation can be a powerfully effective way for spouses to quickly and inexpensively resolve their differences in a divorce proceeding. Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution in which the divorcing parties sit down face-to-face with a mediator. The mediator is supposed to be a neutral third party who encourages the divorcing parties to dialogue about their differences in an attempt to find a mutually-agreeable resolution. Mediation can be used to resolve disputes concerning:
- Valuation of disputed marital assets;
- Property division and/or division of debt;
- Child custody and parenting time arrangements; and/or
- Other disputed issues.
Despite its cost-saving benefits, mediation comes with its drawbacks as well. The usefulness of a mediation session depends in large part on the mediator him- or herself. This is why it is important to choose your mediator wisely.
What Are Some of the Potential Drawbacks of Mediation with Certain Mediators?
Parties who submit to the mediation process (either because a court orders the parties to do so or because the parties themselves want to give mediation a try) are under no obligation to reach an agreement with the mediator. However, if the parties do reach a mediated agreement and this agreement is reduced to writing, it can be very difficult for a party to be released from the commitments he or she agreed to during mediation.
This can be especially problematic in situations where the mediator is not a licensed attorney and does not understand essential legal principles. For example, a property settlement agreement in which the two spouses attempt to require a third party to perform a certain action may ultimately be deemed unenforceable after the fact. However, a finding that part of a mediated agreement is unenforceable typically will not enable a party to avoid fulfilling his or her remaining obligations under the mediated agreement.
What Can I Do to Help Ensure My Mediated Agreement Is in My Best Interest?
If you are headed toward mediation, there are several things you can do to protect your legal interests and ensure you do not end up on the losing end of a mediated agreement because of unenforceable provisions or waivers of important rights:
- First, if at all possible attempt to agree on an approved mediator with your spouse. Research the qualifications of the approved mediators in your area and attempt to find one that is a licensed attorney or who has legal education. Do not agree to a mediator who simply has the lowest fees;
- Determine if you can bring your DuPage County divorce attorney with you to mediation sessions. In this way, your attorney can advise you on the legal ramifications of any proposed agreement and can inform you if any proposed provisions are likely to be unenforceable. If you cannot bring your attorney with you, be sure to discuss mediation with your attorney before your mediation session and discuss with him or her any proposed agreement before signing the agreement.
Our firm is committed to helping you obtain the maximum benefit possible from mediation. Contact our skilled DuPage County divorce attorneys today by calling our Wheaton or Oswego office or by contacting us online.