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Mediation Explained

Mediation in a divorce action is mandatory in Kalamazoo County and all of the surrounding counties.

What is mediation? It is a process where a mediator helps parties to settle the issues that are found in divorce; such as custody of children, child support, spousal support, parenting time, property division and attorney fees.

Who is a mediator? A mediator is usually an attorney, who is chosen by the parties’ attorneys or if the parties attorneys can’t agree, the mediator is chosen by the Judge.

Does the mediator have any power? No, a mediator has only the power of persuasion. He or she is usually very knowledgeable as to what your judge will do given certain facts and is experienced in the divorce process, and the art of compromise.

Ninety-five percent of all divorce cases settle at mediation. When cases don’t settle when in mediation, it is usually because either one or both parties are unreasonable in their demands for settlement.

How does mediation work? Once a mediator is chosen, a date is set for all parties and their attorneys to meet at an agreed location or virtually. Before the mediation date, the party’s attorneys submit to the mediator a written statement listing all of the assets, their values, and the expectation of how the party wishes to settle. In today’s world of pandemic, the meeting may be by zoom.

Once the mediator has listened to the party’s presentations for settlement, the mediator advises the attorneys as to his or her recommendations for settlement. There may be some movement back and forth with the mediator as to the recommendation by the attorneys for the parties to modify the recommendation and eventually, there usually is an agreement as to settlement.

When there is a settlement, the mediator drafts a document containing the settlement terms and the document is signed and dated by the parties and their attorneys. Once the document is signed and dated by the parties, the divorce is basically over. Sometimes the parties agree on all of the issues of a divorce except for one issue.

In order to avoid going to a trial, the parties are sometimes advised by their attorneys to have the mediator or some other party to arbitrate the issue.

Arbitration is different than mediation. In mediation, the mediator has only the power of persuasion. An arbitrator has the power to make binding decisions that are not appealable.

So, what are the benefits of mediation and/or arbitration?

  1. Because the mediator does not have the constraints that a judge has the mediator can listen to your story without worrying about whether your story would not be allowed in Court because of hearsay.

  2. You can get to a mediation long before you can get to see a judge.

  3. An agreement reached with a mediator can be final, no appeal.

  4. No public record, making the proceeding private.

When litigants decide that they want a trial judge to make the final decisions in your divorce you are:

  1. Asking a stranger that has never talked to you to make important decisions in your life.

  2. Because of the rules of evidence, it is quite likely that half of the facts you want the judge to hear will not be admissible.

  3. The judge’s decision will not be final because it is appealable and may not be final for years.

  4. Your trial will be public for anyone to hear and see.

  5. Your attorney fees will soar.

  6. Your family will never be reconciled after all the adverse statements are made public.

Mediation, fast, fair and final. To schedule a mediation with Ross Stancati, call our office at 269-381-4471.


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