Five Stages Of Successful Mediation

November 12, 2020 O'Connor Family Law Mediation

Mediation can be an effective and efficient process that helps you resolve a positive outcome with your divorce or custody case outside of the courtroom. When both parties are committed to working toward a mutually agreeable outcome, mediation can not only address the legal issues of a case but can also help to addresses the underlying emotional and personal conflicts. This is especially important for maintaining a successful and collaborative relationship post-separation when children are involved. The decision to come to the table and commit, however, is only half the battle. For a mediation to truly be successful, you should know about the five stages of mediation and what success in each stage looks like. Because the attorneys at O’Connor Family Law have over 35 combined years of exclusive family law experience, our team is prepared to help you through all five stages of the mediation process in order to successfully resolve your case.


During this stage of the process, the mediator may ask both of you to fill out some intake documents prior to your first mediation session so the mediator has a better understanding of the issues that need to be addressed. During your first mediation session, the mediator will introduce themselves, explain the goals and rules of the meeting, and have the parties each sign a mediation contract and confidentiality agreement if it has not been signed previously. The mediator may give each party the uninterrupted opportunity to talk briefly if the mediator believes doing so could be helpful toward obtaining a complete resolution.


At this stage of mediation, the mediator leads a conversation about each issue while giving each person ample time to share his or her thoughts and opinions on the matter and what he or she believes is the best outcome and why. Active listening is encouraged to ensure that the person who is not talking is understanding the points that other party is making. Each person is encouraged to try to look at the issue with a new perspective to help invigorate creative solutions that address the needs of both parties.


There may be some things that are important to you, but that you do not want the other party to know. This is okay, and why private discussions can be requested at any time by either party going through the mediation. There may also be times when the mediator feels it necessary to request private sessions with either party on their own as well. During this time, the mediator will talk to you about your position, including the potential strengths and weaknesses, and make some suggestions about how you can try to move forward. Anything said during these private discussions remains confidential between you and the mediator unless you provide permission for what was said to be shared.


When the parties reach agreements on the issues, the mediator may create a document that each party signs. These documents indicate that both parties are currently in agreement with the terms as laid out. Although a person going through mediation can have their own attorney, if the attorney is not with you at the mediation, then this is usually where each party has the right to bring the Memorandum of Understanding to their respective attorneys so that they can receive legal counsel on what those agreements mean under the law. This Memorandum of Understanding could include all of the issues or just a few depending on how quickly the parties are able to reach agreements. This is not about pressure. It is about making sure that both parties are on the same page before their Agreement is drafted into the final Agreement that will be entered with the Court.


Some people are able to finalize their agreements within one session. For others it can take numerous shorter meetings. At some point, there is going to be a determination that an Agreement on all the issues is complete and a final Separation Agreement or Stipulation for Judgment can be drafted. Alternatively, the parties may remain unable to come to an agreement on all of the issues and must decide another course of action. When those situations present themselves, it can be helpful to have the issues that are agreed upon put into a Stipulation that can be entered with the Court while allowing the issues that are not in agreement to be litigated. The mediator can draft the final pleadings or the parties can have their own attorneys draft their Agreements in accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding.


While not all mediations result in an agreement at the end of the process, a successful mediation often results in deeper satisfaction with the outcome of a divorce or custody dispute. A lawsuit can be a stressful process for either party; mediation is one way that this process may be made easier by putting control back in your hands and keeping it out of the courts. Our dedicated mediation team at O’Connor Family Law is here to help and answer your questions. Call us today.