Ten Things to Remember When Attending Mediation
Our Grand Rapids Family Law Mediation Attorneys Offer You Critical Information
Most mediations are scheduled because the judge ordered the parties to attend. When you disobey a court order, you should expect that this may hurt your case. Additionally, mediation is almost always beneficial. Many cases settle during mediation. The cost of mediation is much lower than obtaining a judge’s decision. You control what you will agree to (or not), unlike a judge’s decision. And even if your case does not settle, you learned valuable information: the other party’s available facts, arguments, and position. Even if you knew this information already, it would benefit your attorney to be likewise prepared.
Crunch the numbers. If you need to divide property, have copies of all of the statements and property values with you. If you have children, be prepared to produce your income to establish child support. Know your daycare costs and be ready to provide proof of the expenses. Know your work schedule and the children’s school schedule. Showing up at mediation and not knowing the facts and disputes, is a waste of your money and time.
Get Advice About Who to Select as Your Mediator.
Many caring people want to help divorcing parties resolve their conflicts. But good intentions do not equal the requisite knowledge to mediate complicated divorce or child custody issues. Well-intentioned people who are not licensed attorneys may claim to be mediators, and may even obtain mediator training. Still, they often allow parties to reach resolutions that are contrary to Michigan law, which may be set aside or cannot be enforced over time. The cost to fix a failed or flawed mediation can be high.
Some local mediators have a long track record of successful mediations, and your attorney can provide you with a recommendation that may save you heartache and financial savings.
Discuss with Your Family Law Attorney Beforehand.
Take your goals to your attorney and discuss what’s reasonable and what can be accomplished. Discuss some alternative options so that you are not blind-sided when you meet with the mediator. Discuss with your attorney if you are comfortable meeting in the same room with the other party or if you require a separate room.
Write Down Your Bottom Line.
Don’t just consider it. Please write it down. Please share it with your attorney. If you don’t, you may end up with buyer’s (or seller’s) remorse.
Prepare a Mediation Brief.
When you and your attorney provide a mediation brief to the mediator, the mediator may be more understanding of your position, and you will save time and money during mediation when you don’t have to give a history of the case and explain your wishes. When you outline your position in writing, you and your attorney take time to be logical, clear, and reasonable, which may not happen when you are stressed or frustrated.
Keep it Civil.
Your relationship is over; you are not going to win an argument during the mediation. Your goal should be to resolve without spending a ton of money by going to trial. If you lose your cool, you will show the other side your weakness, and they will likely push your buttons again during future hearings when the judge is present or can be told about your conduct.
Do NOT Sign a Judgment or Final Order Without Your Family Law Attorney’s Review.
Occasionally, an attorney will draft a proposed final Order or Judgment and bring it to the mediation or provide it to the client to review. You will notice that the Judgment or Order includes a lot of information that you did not discuss. Some of the paragraphs are required by law, and you have no choice. However, other paragraphs that may benefit you could be omitted, if drafted by the other party’s attorney. An experienced attorney will likely fine-tune some of the paragraphs in the proposed Judgment. Even if you reach an agreement, you are not required to sign a Judgment or Order without your attorney’s review or without taking some time to consider the options. An important caveat, if you leave the mediation without a signed agreement, the other party also has the option of changing his/her mind. Thus, if you reached a good agreement, you will benefit if your attorney is present during mediation and you can sign a binding agreement.
Don’t Sign an Agreement If You Don’t Agree.
If you reach an agreement during mediation, the mediator may provide you with a document that outlines your agreements and ask both of you to sign it. If you both sign it, it’s binding. There is an advantage to that – it means you do not have to go to trial. The end is in sight when it comes to spending money on attorney fees. The disadvantage is that you cannot change your mind. Avoid buyer’s remorse!
Avoid Buyer’s Remorse.
If you are going to reach an agreement during mediation, you are going to have to compromise. Compromise requires giving up some of the things to which you might feel entitled. Giving up on some of your wishes, dreams, your money, your time with your children is going to be painful. It isn’t easy to do so voluntarily instead of having a judge take that away from you. Take some time to process this sense of loss.
Some clients end up with an unfortunate mediation result, but if the agreement or order is signed, it likely is irreversible. The goal during mediation should be to avoid a regrettable result which you accomplish by following the suggestions in this blog and having a competent attorney attend mediation with you.
When clients reach an agreement during mediation, they often feel a sense of loss that no one affirmed the harm that was done to them during the relationship. As attorneys, we see quite a few clients who want their day in court. TV shows give us a false sense of satisfaction where the judge admonishes the other side for their bad behavior. Instead, we usually see judges provide a very balanced opinion about both parties and mostly focus on the issues to be decided. Even if the judge outlines the other party’s fault, the emotional and financial cost of going to trial will likely far outweigh those few sentences.
Contact Kraayeveld Law for Mediation Guidance
If you are ordered to attend mediation, or if you would like to resolve your disputes by attending mediation, give our attorneys a call. We have acted as the mediator in many cases, and we represent many clients during the mediation process to ensure that they end up with the best results possible. Let’s have a conversation about your options. Call us at 616-285-0808 and let us help you to reach a successful outcome during your mediation and family law dispute.