At Lawyer Legion we created a directory of attorneys for the divorce mediation process. Search for the attorney by state, city, or zip code. The profiles of these attorneys focused on family law and divorce mediation have information on the attorney's membership and leadership in legal organizations related to family law, speaking engagements at quality CLE seminars, and participation in specialty certification programs.
Different states and jurisdictions have different names for the same legal procedure; divorce, marital law, family law or matrimonial law all describe the procedure for legally terminating a marriage. Currently, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) almost half of all marriages end in a divorce proceeding. Because of the volume of these cases, family law courts are overwhelmed.
Many states require the parties to go through the process of divorce mediation. Mediation often helps the parties resolve their issues in the divorce case through a settlement agreement instead of taking up the court's time with a contested trial.
What is Family Law Mediation?
Mediation is a process where the parties meet with a third person called a mediator. The mediator in the divorce case will meet with the parties and their counsel and help them reach an amicable solution to the dispute or to identify specific, limited divorce issues that should be litigated further. The most common issues in a divorce proceeding include the division of property, alimony, health insurance, life insurance, child support, child custody, child visitation or time sharing agreements for the benefit of the children.
A trial is a process where the court will hear evidence from lay witnesses, experts and the parties and will make decisions which will bind the parties for an indeterminate period of time. Divorce is a function of state law and the rules regarding mediation vary from state to state. In many states, mediation is required as a pre-condition to an actual divorce trial.
What happens at a Family Law Mediation?
At mediation, both parties will be present in attendance with their lawyers if they have retained one. The mediator is typically a lawyer who is trained in both the art of mediation and often times, are family law lawyers themselves so they are familiar with the issues which need to be addressed.
An experienced mediator will work with the parties from a neutral position and working with the parties and their counsel, identify the issues to be resolved. Once the issues are identified, the mediator will work to help the parties work towards agreement, through compromise and discussion, what is in the mutual best interest of the parties. Open communication and compromise are the keys to a favorable mediation result. Almost half the cases which are mediated are resolved or result in resolution of many, if not all of the contentious issues.
Most states have statutes which make the mediation process confidential. This means that if the mediator was told something in confidence, the mediator is bound to keep it confidential. Many states immunize the mediator such that they cannot be called or compelled to testify at trial or hearing. The responsibility for the payment of the mediators varies from state to state but typically the parties can share the mediation expense.
What if a party does not want to participate in mediation?
In some situations, there are allegations of intimidation and domestic violence. If a party has reason to believe there is any level of danger, that party may file a motion with the court to waive the requirement of mediation. Generally, a parties’ expectation that mediation is a ‘waste of time’ or ‘we can’t work it out’ are not sufficient to cause mediation to be waived by the court.
What is a Marital Settlement Agreement?
When the parties have a successful mediation conference and they reach either partial or complete agreement, the mediator will draft a Settlement or Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA) to be signed by the parties and their counsel. This Agreement is the written embodiment of the specific points of agreement between the parties. The MSA will be incorporated into the final divorce decree or judgment and will become enforceable between the parties by the court and no trial will be necessary. There will be a final hearing at which point, the court will review and ratify the terms of the MSA into the final divorce judgment or decree.
Hiring a Lawyer for a Family Law Mediation
Lawyers who specialize in representing parties in a family law divorce case are matrimonial or family law lawyers. Many states have certifications in Family and Matrimonial law and family law mediation is part of that certification skill set. To qualify for this certification, applicants must have dedicated a certain percentage of their practice to Family and matrimonial law, had a certain number of trials in the field of family law and taken and passed an exam. In many states, peer review and professional references are required.
The skills typically utilized by a lawyer who specializes in family law and family law mediation are general trial practice, the rules of evidence, insurance law and contract law. Most family law claims are resolved through a negotiated settlement or a formal mediation so lawyers who practice in the field of family law must have strong negotiating skills. Lawyers who practice in this field appear before judges and magistrates in state courts. Most states have programs which offer a certification for people seeking to become a mediator and many family law mediators are state certified.
The purpose of the state bar standards in establishing certifications in specialties such as family or matrimonial trial law is to educate the public that certain lawyers have demonstrated an advanced proficiency and have special knowledge in the field of specific certification. This certification distinguishes the lawyer as having an advanced level of experience and expertise.
Finding the Right Attorney for Divorce Mediation
When choosing an attorney for a contested or uncontested divorce, consider the attorneys focus on resolving cases during the divorce mediation process. At Lawyer Legion we created our directory of family law attorneys to help the public find a qualified attorney in a variety of practice areas including divorce mediation. We rank attorneys according to the focus of their legal practice, their membership and leadership in organizations related to family law, and other objective criteria.