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Dispelling Common Myths About Mediation

Law Office of MariAnn Hathaway Nov. 22, 2023

Wodden Puzzle Pieces with icon for Man, Women and HandshakeNo matter your exact situation, disputes can arise when it comes to marriages and their aftermath. Perhaps you are experiencing the early stages of the divorce process, or maybe you disagree with your ex-spouse about a child custody issue. More often than not, these disputes can be emotionally and financially taxing. To make matters worse, you may not be able to solve the issue just by discussing things with your ex-spouse.  

Luckily, you still have a path forward. You may need to resort to a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) such as mediation. Mediation avoids the courtroom battles, the publicity, and the various costs of litigation. It also allows time for both parties to settle their emotions and leave their grievances behind them. 

If you are in a dispute in or around Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, especially if it involves issues of family law and divorce, it’s important to be clear on common misconceptions surrounding mediation. There is plenty of misinformation out there. Contact the Law Office of MariAnn Hathaway for skilled guidance and detail-oriented advocacy. We will provide a personal touch and one-on-one service in helping you resolve your differences to hopefully reach a mutual resolution.  We also proudly serve clients throughout Washington County. 

What Is Divorce Mediation?

Generally speaking, mediation in a divorce situation involves a neutral, third-party mediator who will listen to both sides and attempt to propose a solution that both spouses can agree to. Mediation is not binding and is typically voluntary. If one party rejects the idea, he or she cannot be forced into the process. 

However, keep in mind that in Pennsylvania, when children are involved and the issue of custody following divorce is on the table, then both parties by law are required to attend a mediation session prior to being granted a hearing before a common pleas judge. Again, even in a court-ordered child custody mediation session, any proposal put forth by the mediator can be rejected by either parent. 

Common Myths About Mediation

When people hear the term mediation, they may have different reactions and different understandings of what the process involves. Let’s get some clarity on some of the more common misconceptions: 

You don’t need a lawyer for mediation 

While the mediation process is generally conducted in private with a mediator, if you’re considering divorce – or trying to resolve any other legal dispute – you definitely want to obtain the guidance and counsel of an experienced attorney. Your attorney can explain your rights to you and help you make more informed decisions during the mediation process. Without a full understanding of the situation you’re facing in terms of the law, you may find yourself agreeing to something you later come to regret. Consult an attorney to explore all legal ramifications. 

Mediation agreements aren’t enforceable 

They are enforceable. Once you sign on the dotted line of an agreement that was forged during the mediation process, it’s final. That’s another reason to understand all your legal rights and obligations before entering into mediation. 

Mediation is pointless unless a settlement occurs 

The answer to this depends on what transpires during the mediation session. You may come to have a better understanding of what the result is you’re seeking, along with a better understanding of what the other party is seeking. Though the two parties may not agree on a settlement, the mediation can provide a framework for moving forward. From that point on, you may be able to work something out on your own or continue negotiations using your attorney. 

Asking for mediation is a sign of weakness 

In no way is agreeing to mediation a sign of weakness. It could actually be viewed as a sign of self-worth and dignity in that you’re willing to air your grievances or viewpoints in front of the other party and in front of a neutral mediator. The alternative is often a costly courtroom confrontation that most people would rather avoid. 

Mediation is only for divorce and family law cases 

While mediation is certainly a large factor in helping to resolve divorce and family law matters, that is not the only area in which mediation can play a big role. A business owner might opt for mediation to resolve a dispute with a vendor or a customer. Unlike a civil trial, mediation can help heal personal wounds and perhaps restore the relationship to the previous level when it comes to business disputes. 

Mediation is the same as arbitration 

Arbitration is another form of alternative dispute resolution, but unlike mediation, the result by the arbitrator is binding. Arbitration is also more like a courtroom trial than an informal meeting of the minds, so to speak. Each side is asked to present evidence, call witnesses, and make oral arguments in arbitration. It can be more stressful than mediation. 

Make Informed Decisions with an Attorney’s Support

Mediation may be the key to resolving your dispute or your divorce, but it’s important to know the facts. Get advice and counsel from an experienced attorney before entering into the process. If you are involved in a dispute in or around Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, especially if it involves family law, divorce, or child custody, reach out to us immediately at the Law Office of MariAnn Hathaway