Mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution
Mediation can help couples resolve their disputes by:
- Helping narrow the issues between the parties to facilitate compromise and settlement.
- Helping get an accurate sense of the relative strength of each party’s legal position.
- Helping maintain control of the agreement between the parties, as opposed to the court dictating the terms after a trial.
- Helping avoid the expense, stress, and unpredictable nature of a contested trial.
You may be familiar with mediation as a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) — a forum for settling disputed issues in the family law case before a trial. In Arizona, couples with children often participate in the Conciliation Services’ court mediation program. Private mediation is also available, however, for couples with children and those without children.
Private mediation is a confidential process with a neutral facilitator, the mediator, who assists the parties in arriving at an agreement on specific issues. It is critically important that the parties trust the mediator, and trust that their discussions will remain absolutely confidential. This well-respected form of ADR is an opportunity to settle any and all matters raised in the family law case.
With private mediation, any issue may be presented for resolution, from spousal maintenance, to the division of assets and debts, to the ownership and control of the couple’s favorite pet. When the resolved issues are written into a mediation agreement, and signed by the parties, the result is a consent decree from the assigned judge.
Mediation almost always represents a cost-savings for the parties. The fewer issues in dispute, the fewer issues are litigated by the attorneys. Of course, if a full settlement is reached through ADR, then there is no need for a trial — the parties resolved their issues without turning to the court for a final decision.
Every disputed issue has the potential of being fully resolved through mediation. Even when a trial is scheduled, many issues can be mediated successfully in advance of trial, removing those settled matters from the trial agenda.