The cost of mediation in family law cases is different in each state and county and varies among each case. Some counties offer mediation through a county program. Other counties may offer mediation through contracts with private mediators.
Some counties provide mediation services at no cost if the case has been filed in that county. Other counties can charge a fee for mediation services. The cost of mediation is shared equally by the persons involved unless they agree otherwise.
You should be aware in advance of what the mediator charges and when payment is expected. Some mediators may require reduced fees or even waive the fees for low-income participants. The cost of private mediation depends on the mediator. For instance, in Virginia, many people utilize mediation as an option to resolve their disputes. A mediator is available to manage a future-focused, problem-solving conversation to create a plan for you and your children’s future.
Mediation can have many benefits:
- No cost: Mediation is free for the public and paid for by the government;
- Faster resolution: Your case can be scheduled for mediation relatively soon after filing;
- There is less stress caused by the uncertainty of the outcome of the court process;
- Parents construct an agreement together, ensuring that they have maximum control over decisions about their children’s future;
- Once a judge evaluates the mediated agreement, it can be signed and is considered an enforceable order of the court;
- In all appropriate custody, visitation, and support cases, the court must refer parties to mediation (as required by Virginia law).
Who Are the Mediators?
Mediators are neutral parties trained to assist people in settling their problems. Most mediators in family law cases have a background in law, conflict resolution, or mental health with additional mediation training. For example, in Oregon, every county is mandated to provide mediation orientation in family law cases.
The mediators submitted by Oregon counties are known as court-connected mediators. The mediator is not considered a judge and does not make a decision or impose a solution to the dispute. Instead, the mediator assists those involved in the dispute communicate with each other, thereby permitting them to resolve the dispute themselves. The mediator supervises the mediation session and remains impartial.
Mediation is a procedure that allows the people in a family law case to reach an agreement about some or all of their issues. Mediation can reduce the likelihood that a trial will be necessary or decrease the number of things to deal with in a trial. The courts encourage families to mediate conflicts in family law cases. Mediation permits keeping decisions about what is best for children in the hands of the parents instead of lawyers or judges who do not know the family. This allows the parents more control over the case and the outcome.
Moreover, mediation can benefit divorce or other family separation issues when no children are involved. In these cases, mediation services may not be available through the court. However, private mediators can offer services in these situations.
Furthermore, if you agree on your parenting plan, the mediator will typically prepare a written agreement for both parents to sign. If neither parent has an attorney, the mediator or the parents will provide the agreement to the judge to confirm and sign. When the judge signs it, it becomes an official court order.
If you have a lawyer, speak to your lawyer about your situation and what you should do if you reach an agreement in mediation. Your lawyer can review the written agreement before you. After the official signatures are completed, you can file them in court.
But, if you cannot reach an agreement in mediation, a few things can take place after:
- There is usually a court hearing or settlement conference with the judge to resolve issues;
- The judge can make decisions on a parenting plan and;
- The judge can order a child custody evaluation by a mental health professional to receive proper information before making a decision.
In some courts, the judge may request the mediator to make a recommendation. Inquire with your mediator about the process and how it plays out in your local court. The family law facilitator may also be able to answer your questions. Even when you cannot agree on every issue in mediation, the process can guide you to narrow down the issues you disagree about and settle the case later.
How Does Mediation Work?
At the mediation session, each party involved in the dispute presents a summary of their perspective. If you have an attorney, they may attend the mediation session. The mediator will meet with everyone together and may also meet individually with each side. This offers participants the opportunity to communicate to the mediator their priority issues in the dispute and discuss any frustrations outside the presence of the opposing side.
The mediator will collaborate with each person until an agreement is reached that is acceptable to everyone. The agreement is drafted in writing and signed by the people involved, with the advice of their attorneys. The time required for mediation depends on the complexity of the issues and the concerns of the people involved. Keep in mind that it may be essential to meet with the mediator more than once.
What Are the Benefits of Mediation?
Some of the benefits of mediation include:
- Parties can keep control over the resolution of their problems;
- Disputes can be settled promptly because a mediation session can be scheduled as soon as everyone agrees to use mediation to resolve the dispute, even before a lawsuit may be filed;
- Mediation costs are significantly lower than bringing a case to trial;
- Mediation promotes better relationships through cooperative problem-solving and improved communication;
- Mediation is known to be private and confidential. The mediator and the individuals in the dispute must maintain the confidentiality of the information disclosed during mediation and;
- Mediation is voluntary; even though a judge may order a case to proceed to mediation, the mediation may end at any time by the parties involved or the mediator. Settlement is entirely voluntary as well. If you cannot reach an agreement, you still have the right to take the dispute before a judge or jury.
When Do I need to Contact a Lawyer?
If you are struggling to decide between participating in a mediation or not, it is highly recommended to understand the financial benefits of mediation. Many state counties conduct them free of cost, and aid is available to those needing family mediation. The courts support the mediation process, especially for family law cases.
Sometimes, it can mean a big difference after the initial mediation meeting. However, remember that mediation cannot replace an attorney’s representation. As mentioned earlier, mediators are not permitted to make decisions for you. They are available as a neutral third party to shed light on the issues occurring in your case.
Therefore, it is suggested to seek out a local family attorney in your area to guide you through the reality of mediation and the cost benefits of mediation. Your attorney can provide you with the legal advice, guidance, and representation needed in a family law proceeding.