Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) that is frequently used to resolve issues in St. Louis divorce cases. While mediation involves two divorcing spouses negotiating with one another, an essential part of the process is the mediator. Who is the mediator, and what is their role in this process? Read on for a brief overview of how a mediator leads spouses through this process.
Who is a Mediator?
A mediator is a professional who has undergone training in ADR. Mediators can be judges, lawyers, mental health professionals, or others who are in a position to understand the issues in divorce cases. Mediators understand the goal of keeping a divorce out of court and reducing conflict and stress. It is important to select a mediator that feels right for your situation and approach to your divorce.
Does a Mediator Take Sides?
In short, no. A mediator is specifically trained to remain unbiased and neutral in each case. When divorce attorneys negotiate with one another, they are each advocating for their own client’s position. However, both spouses are the clients of the mediator, and helping clients reach a mutually beneficial agreement is the goal of mediation.
Is a Mediator Similar to a Judge?
In arbitration, the arbitrator makes a binding decision on certain issues, similar to a judge at trial. This is NOT the case with a mediator. In many situations, a spouse may want the mediator to agree with them on certain issues for leverage in negotiations, but this should not happen. A St. Louis Mediation mandates that the mediator should never take sides or decide one spouse “wins” on a particular issue. Instead, it is up to the spouses to decide on the details of an agreement on their own terms.
Can a Mediator Provide Legal Advice?
You might expect a mediator to provide legal guidance during sessions, so you understand your rights under the law. However, even if the mediator is a lawyer or judge, they should not be legally advising clients, as this could result in a bias toward one side over the other. A mediator may be able to give their opinion regarding certain matters, but they should not be giving favorable advice to a party in mediation.
What Does a Mediator Do During Divorce Mediation?
If the mediator does not make decisions like a judge or provide legal advice like an attorney, what exactly is their role in the process? Generally speaking, a mediator is there to facilitate conversation and negotiation. There are many ways that mediators accomplish this, including:
- Having each party state their starting position on the issues – It is important that everyone understands where they stand at the beginning and how much they might need to compromise to reach common ground.
- Asking difficult questions – Sometimes, a mediator will ask each party hard questions to identify their true expectations and what they are really seeking in a settlement. Such questions can also help parties realize that their initially-stated expectations may be unreasonable, given the circumstances.
- Directing focus – Often, divorcing spouses can spend hours bickering about small details when they should be looking at the big picture. Mediators can help parties focus on key issues instead of inconsequential ones.
- Holding separate sessions – In some cases, heated emotions in a joint mediation session may signal the need for a “breakout” session with each party separately. This can help keep parties focused on their best interests instead of emotional issues.
Mediators should also remind clients of the benefits of an amicable settlement in mediation rather than going to trial. Even if each spouse did not get everything they wanted, which rarely happens, reaching a mediation agreement can still be a win-win situation, as the spouses retain control over their futures.
What Role Does My Attorney Play?
Your attorney still plays an important role during mediation, as well. It is important to have an advocate who can clarify legal questions and keep advising you of your rights. Your lawyer can advise you whether a mediation agreement is in line with your rights under the law, or whether you might want to keep negotiating. If you do reach a mediation agreement, your lawyer can draw up an agreement to present to the court. Even if you plan to engage in mediation, it is still important to discuss your divorce with a skilled St. Louis divorce lawyer.
Discuss Your Options with a Divorce Lawyer and Mediator Today
At J. Rench Law Firm, LLC, we regularly help clients with the mediation process. Jennifer Rench is both an experienced divorce attorney and a divorce mediator, and she understands the many benefits of reaching a positive resolution through divorce mediation. Whether you need legal representation in a divorce or are searching for the right mediator, please do not hesitate to reach out to our firm. Call 314-725-4000 or contact us online to set up a consultation.