As a lawyer, judge, and now mediator, I have handled thousands of cases in multiple areas of the law. I have watched litigants navigate the court system and had the privilege of visiting multiple New York State courthouses to review that navigation so that there could be operational solutions to optimize the experience for all. Mediation offers litigants an opportunity to resolve a matter in a different way. The mediation process can save time and money, reduce stress and improve the overall well-being of the parties. Whether you are getting divorced or dealing with a personal injury matter, landlord-tenant issue, insurance coverage dispute, or employment or contract claims, mediation can offer extensive benefits.
For this article, I will focus on family law mediation, but the benefits apply to all types of cases.
Getting divorced in New York can cost a fortune. I have seen a great number of litigants deplete their life savings in matrimonial disputes. Many of these matters could have been resolved at a fraction of the cost through mediation.
A judge has multiple cases on his or her calendar. As such, the judge will determine the day and time of an appearance and how the case will be heard. It might be in person or virtual. Mediation allows the parties and counsel the opportunity to weigh in on scheduling, as well as how the case is to be heard. In some situations, the proceeding might be a hybrid, in that some individuals appear in person and others participate remotely.
The parties and counsel will choose the mediator, which gives everyone a sense of control and confidence. The selection of a mediator is an initial step to begin to think that this individual will move the case toward resolution.
When a case goes to trial, there could be major disputes about finances and children. This type of case could take weeks to try, drawing out one of the most painful events in a person’s life, which can have a deep impact on finances, job performance, mental health, other relationships and overall well-being. Mediation means less time away from work, children, life and the real moments that matter.
Once the meditator establishes a rapport with the parties, it is crucial to keep the conversation moving. Agreements on smaller points often lead to agreements on larger ones. The ability in mediation to schedule day-to-day meetings is a wonderful tool in reaching a settlement.
Divorce is one of the most stressful life events. This is a time to find ways to lessen the impact of this stress on the family.
Divorce proceedings bring an additional level of scrutiny and can enhance the anxiety associated with the experience. Courtrooms are open, as they should be. In mediation, the setting is private, confidential, and more intimate and protected.
A study conducted by the University of Virginia and published by The Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology on the effects of mediating versus litigating child custody disputes offers a clear indication of the benefits of mediation over litigation. “The 12-year follow-up data indicate that, even in contested cases, mediation encourages both parents to remain involved in their children’s lives after divorce without increasing co-parenting conflict.”
Some of the additional highlights were that the nonresidential parent was more likely to be involved in co-parenting activities and, even after 12 years, was three times more likely to see their children weekly and four times more likely to talk to their children weekly than those parents who engaged in litigation. These findings are tremendously impactful when thinking about the effects of divorce.
A skilled mediator in a private setting who can focus on a matter without interruption has an excellent chance of bringing the parties to a resolution. Each party has a story to tell, and the mediator must listen and not be judgmental. The best resolution provides a foundation for future problem-solving. And, of course, the hope is that relationships can be preserved, especially when there are children involved.
Mediation saves parties money and time, and gives them the opportunity to close a difficult chapter in their lives. Mediation helps parties to work toward the best potential outcome for today and for the future.
Joan Kelly describes a case she mediated and settled after the parents didn't get anywhere with collaborative law.By Joan B. Kelly, Ph.D.