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Six Reasons Why Mediation Fails


When you are ordered to attend mediation or agree to attend mediation, it is important to actively participate in the process. This will increase your chances to settle and avoid an expensive trial.

During mediation, you will meet with a mediator, a neutral third party, who will assist you with resolving your disputes. Parties can bring a variety of disputes to a mediator, such as all divorce related issues such as child custody, parenting time, spousal support, child support, and division of property.  Parties can also bring post judgment disputes such as one parent’s wish to move the child’s domicile or move the child to another school district.

Because reaching a settlement during mediation has great benefits, such as a controlled outcome and decreased costs of litigation, it will benefit you to be well prepared before attending mediation.

Reaching an agreement during mediation is not mandatory; sometimes mediation is unsuccessful and parties are unable to reach an agreement regarding their disputes.  In this blog article, we will discuss reasons why mediation is sometimes unsuccessful.

Mediation tends to be unsuccessful when parties are inflexible, when parties fail to communicate effectively, when parties allow their emotions to control the conversation, when one or both parties have insufficient information available, when there is an imbalance of power between the parties, or when parties have unrealistic expectations.

Let’s review these reasons for unsuccessful mediation outcomes.

Reason 1: Mediation Will Fail When Parties are Inflexible.

When a romantic relationship ends, partners are usually hurt and frustrated. Sometimes parties have strong opinions about their wished for outcome, and if those demands are unreasonable or contrary to Michigan law, mediation will likely fail.  Ultimately, mediation is a matter of give and take, and if one or both parties are unwilling to work towards a compromise, mediation will fail and a trial will be necessary to get a ruling from the court.

Reason 2: Communication Breakdowns.

Communication is a key factor to reach a successful mediation result.  Each party will need to effectively communicate their requested outcome and their support for the request. 

Contrarily, when a party takes the time to explain why they want a certain asset awarded, it may create some understanding, and if the request is accompanied by an offer to give up something else, the parties are on their way to compromise.

Reason 3: Mediation Might Fail When Emotions Control the Conversation

When parties use the mediation session to discuss the reasons for the breakdown of the relationship, they are not working towards compromise and resolution.  Realistically there is fault in the breakdown of every relationship, and discussing fault will create a lot of emotional pain. This pain may prevent you or your ex from focusing on the task at hand: reaching a settlement. Make sure you appear at mediation well rested and focused on settling.  Avoid swearing, name calling, facial expressions such as rolling your eyes, and triggering words such as “must”, “always”, and “you did”.

Reason 4: One or Both Parties Do Not Have the Necessary Documents.

Parties are allowed and should exchange discovery during the beginning stages of a child custody or divorce matter.  If one party fails to obtain sufficient information or one party refused to share the requested information, mediation will likely, and probably should, fail.  When each party knows the strengths and weaknesses of their position, they are able to enter into meaningful settlement negotiations.

Reason 5: Imbalance of Power

When the partners did not equally contribute to the decision-making process during the relationship, it will be difficult to equalize the decision-making powers during the mediation session.  If parties are aware of this imbalance, they should consider attending some counseling sessions, they should schedule a time with their attorney to discuss a reasonable settlement range, and they should avoid contact with their ex during the mediation session.

Reason 6: Unrealistic Expectations

When parties attend mediation not knowing Michigan law and expect to reach a settlement based on their baseless, wished-for result, they may be in for a surprise and not reach a settlement.  Parties should meet with an experienced family law attorney prior to the mediation session to discuss a reasonable range of settlement options.  This allows for effective communications and realistic expectations.

Remember, failing to settle in mediation may lead to a costly and time-consuming trial. Seeking guidance from experienced family law attorneys, like those at Kraayeveld Family Law (616-285-0808), can provide valuable insights into navigating mediation effectively and securing a favorable resolution for your family law dispute.