What is mediation?

1. Decide if you should mediate

There are many reasons why people choose . And there are also reasons why they don't. Think about these reasons and then decide if you want to try mediation with your partner.

Reasons to mediate

Some of the reasons to use mediation are:

  • It can be faster than going to court once you have agreed on all of the process details and signed a mediation agreement.
  • It can be cheaper than going to court. In many cases, you can get free or subsidized mediation.
  • You get professional help to try and make an agreement.
  • Your mediator checks if mediation can be done fairly and safely.
  • The process is usually easier to start than going to court. You and your partner have to fill out an intake form. But this form asks for less information than the forms you fill in to start a family law court case.

Mediation also gives you a lot of control over the process. You can decide things like:

  • who to hire as your mediator. You can pick someone with the experience you need. For example, a social worker with experience working out a .
  • what documents you have to share, how you share them, and when
  • when you meet with your mediator
  • whether your lawyers go to mediation with you
  • whether your mediation is closed or open. Most family law mediation is closed. This is explained in Step 4.

Mediation is usually private or confidential. This is different from a court case. Once you start a court case, your is usually open to anyone.

There are subsidized mediation services that charge based on each person's income.

Reasons not to mediate

Some of the reasons not to use mediation are:

  • Although it can be cheaper than going to court, you may still have to pay the mediator. Most partners share this cost.
  • It isn't suitable when you have an emergency and need a . For example, if there is a risk that your partner is going to leave the country with your child.
  • You feel that you won't be able to negotiate fairly or safely with your partner, even with a mediator and lawyers involved. For example, if there is a history of partner abuse and your partner makes threats or hides information. Mediators must check for issues like partner abuse before they start mediation. They may be able to plan the process to let you negotiate fairly and safely.

When mediation fails

Mediation won't work if partners can't talk to each other, even with the help of a mediator and lawyers. For example, it won't work if one partner refuses to share important financial information that the other partner needs to make an agreement.

If you can’t agree on your issues and need a decision, you can try mediation-arbitration, arbitration, or going to court. Then an arbitrator or judge decides your issues.

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