Mediation: What? Why? When?

What is mediation?

Chicago's Center for Conflict Resolution provides the following description: Mediation is a voluntary process in which two or more parties involved in a dispute work with an impartial party, the mediator, to generate their own solutions in settling their conflict. Unlike a judge or an arbitrator whose decisions subject one party to win and the other party to lose, mediation is about finding a solution that works for both parties.

What it looks like

Both parties attend mediation and the mediator (a trained professional) assists in communication between the two. A mediator is a third-party neutral and does not work for either party. No matter who hires or pays for the mediator, she or he must remain neutral. Some issues that can be addressed and oftentimes resolved in mediation include most family law (parentage, co-parenting, divorce, separation, college contribution) issues, as well as premarital (prenup) and postnuptial (postnup) agreements.

Should you mediate? 

Many clients wonder whether mediation is right for them. In some circumstances- discussed below, mediation is probably not the way to go. However, many couples successfully mediate issues such as parenting plans, allocation of parental rights and responsibilities (we used to call it custody), property division, and more. Couples considering or planning their wedding choose to mediate the terms of the premarital agreement; couples also plan their postnuptial agreements to reflect what they've laid out with the help of a mediator. 

Where there is a large power differential or history of abuse, addiction, and other difficult relational dynamics, mediation may be advised against. Alternatively, mediation may be recommended only with attorneys present.