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Preparing for Mediation

Law Office of MariAnn Hathaway Dec. 22, 2023

Mediator sitting near gavel of judge and words mediation Family law cases often come with their fair share of emotional and financial challenges. One method we frequently recommend to our clients at the Law Office of MariAnn Hathaway is mediation. Mediation is a critical part of many family law cases, including divorce and child custody disputes. It's a negotiation process where all parties involved come together in the presence of a neutral third-party, known as the mediator. 

The primary goal of mediation is to reach a settlement agreement that all parties can agree to. This approach is typically faster, and less expensive than going to trial, and it allows the parties involved to maintain control over the outcome of their case. Importantly, everything discussed during mediation remains confidential and cannot be brought up in court later. 

In many family law cases, district courts require mediation. The process usually involves the parties and their respective lawyers either meeting in person or virtually with the mediator. The mediator acts as a conduit, relaying offers and helping everyone find common ground. But how does one prepare for mediation? That's the question we're here to help answer.  

How to Prepare for Family Law Mediation

Preparation is key when heading into family law mediation. Here's how we guide our clients through the process: 

  1. First, we recommend consulting a lawyer to discuss your case and goals. This conversation will help you understand the mediation process and what to expect. Your lawyer can also provide insight into potential outcomes and strategies for negotiation. 

  1. Next, make sure your lawyer drafts a mediation memo that you can give to your mediator. This document provides background information about your case and your goals for mediation. It's an effective way to help the mediator understand your perspective and serves as a reference during the mediation. 

  1. Also, it's a smart idea to come to mediation with a comprehensive first offer. It shows that you're prepared and serious about reaching a settlement. Your attorney can help you draft an offer that's fair and reasonable.  

  1. Before the mediation, you'll also need to identify any non-negotiables. These are issues that are extraordinarily important to you and cannot be compromised. For example, your non-negotiables may have to do with child custody or specific assets. Knowing and discussing these beforehand can help you stay focused during the mediation process and ensure they are addressed. 

  1. Knowing the logistics of the mediation—like the start time, location (be it virtual or in-person), and expected length—will also be beneficial. Having these details will help you be well-prepared and know what to expect.  

  1. Finally, having a plan in case the mediation does not result in a settlement is crucial. With your attorney or mediator, discuss potential next steps, such as additional work needed on the case, a realistic outcome at trial, the timeline, and expected costs. 

Special Considerations for Child Custody Cases

Child custody cases require special considerations during mediation. Here are some key points we keep in mind: 

  • Possession and access schedules are often a significant part of child custody mediation. We always stress the importance of considering the best interests of the child and being open to compromise. If there are geographical restrictions in place, like limitations on where the child can live, these should be discussed during mediation. The parties may need to come to an agreement on how to handle these restrictions. 

  • Mediation can also address issues related to the enforcement and modification of custody orders. If you have any concerns or foresee changes that may need to be made in the future, we'll make sure to discuss these during mediation. 

  • Child support is often a significant aspect of child custody cases. Mediation can help the parties come to an agreement on the amount and terms of child support payments. If there are concerns about parental alienation, mediation can provide an opportunity to address these issues and find ways to promote a healthy co-parenting relationship. 

  • Cases involving special needs children require careful consideration of their unique needs and circumstances. We'll ensure that any necessary accommodations or support services are discussed during mediation.  

The delicate and personal nature of child custody cases necessitates a thoughtful, compassionate approach during mediation. From crafting possession schedules that prioritize the child's well-being, to discussing potential modifications to custody orders, each aspect should be carefully considered with the child's best interests at heart. Remember, mediation serves as a platform to address any concerns. By navigating these issues together in the mediation process, parties can promote a peaceful, supportive co-parenting environment that nurtures the child's growth and development. 

Seek Your Best Outcome

At the Law Office of MariAnn Hathaway, we're committed to guiding you through every step of the mediation process. With our experience and compassionate approach, we'll strive to achieve the best possible outcome for your case. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you prepare for family law mediation. We're based in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, and serve clients across Washington County.