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Legal Pad: Mediation: what is it? Why am I here?

By M. J. Goodwin

         Anderson County Family Court has a mandatory mediation requirement.  This was implemented in 2002.  Mediation is required before a party can even request a final contested hearing.  I completed my mediation training in 2002 and do a fair number of mediations each year. 

         Mediation is an informal process that allows opposing parties of litigation to meet with a neutral (the mediator) in an atmosphere that facilitates communication, with a view to resolving differences outside of court.  Mediation gives the parties a chance to make the decisions, with compromises that are implicit in settlements, rather than having a stranger (the Judge) make the decisions for them.  Studies have shown that resolutions reached by agreement are generally more satisfying for the litigants than Court determinations.  After all, who doesn’t want to have some control in the most personal parts of his or her life?  So what should one do to have a successful mediation?

         There are as many opinions on mediation as there are attorneys and litigants.  Like most things in life, you will get out of it what you put in it.  This point was driven home for me recently at a seminar.  A speaker who does a mostly mediation practice stated that an attorney would never dream of going to trial unprepared; with mandatory mediation, more cases are now mediated than tried.  So why do attorneys and litigants come to mediation unprepared? 

         That begs the question:  what preparation should be done in anticipation of mediation?  Again, the answers are as varied as the responder.  I like to see each party make a full financial discloser prior to mediation.  This includes a financial declaration on the court approved form, of course, but also goes further.  As a mediator and as a litigant’s attorney, I want to see the statements of the retirement accounts from both prior to the separation and at the time of the mediation.  If there is a lot of credit card debt, I want to see the bills.  Tax returns from the last five years of the marriage are useful.   Statements of net worth are useful.  Child support guidelines should be run in advance.   If alimony is a consideration, the alimony calculator should be consulted. Read Entire Column Here

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