The field of dispute mediation is extremely broad, and involves professionals with varying degrees of training helping parties negotiate agreements in civil and family matters at many levels of dispute. Mediators that work with parties to family court disputes can, in cases that do not involve abuse or domestic violence, help families avoid the expense and turmoil of lawyers and additional litigation that can arise from issues surrounding the custody and visitation of minor children.
Mediators can help de-escalate very sensitive family dynamics and use techniques that are successful in helping people reach agreements about matters including settling a Custody Agreement, working out post-order disputes and Agreement violations, and making future adjustments to Agreements as a families’ needs change. Changing the terms of an Agreement, visitation time, and even matters of child support are best negotiated with a mediator who can keep from taking sides and may be able to help both sides make their points in the best interests of the subject child(ren) in the case. This approach is far favorable than letting a judge, who often has limited background or vested interest in the case, make intensely personal decisions that will affect a child and his/her family for years to come. By making good use of mediation, families can tailor agreements that work for both parties.
There are, however, some cases in which a mediator is not appropriate. In cases that involve mental or physical abuse, mediation may be detrimental to tbe abused party. Mediators can be helpful only when there are reasonably functional family dynamics that, even when tense, involve parties that are able to advocate for themselves and arrive at a fair agreement with the help of a mediator.
In addition to helping broker functional Agreements for families, another benefit to using a mediator is that most times, they are much less expensive than using lawyers to work out settlements in family court. Unlike lawyers, who are paid (by the hour) to grapple and fight with the opposing side, mediators are incented to foster agreements between parties. The more cases they settle amicably, the better reputation and better business a mediator can build. What’s more, many of these professionals are court-appointed, or are compensated on a sliding-fee schedule subsidized by community organizations with a vested interest in increasing the peace in family court cases.
Families can also rest assured that in most states, there is required training in dispute mediation. Some professionals in this field even have mental health, social work or legal backgrounds, and often add value to their mediation work from those professional overlays as well.
There is no question that in many cases, using a mediator is less confrontational and more effective, not to mention less costly, than fighting tooth and nail over matters that can normally be settled with nothing more than a trained professional at the table with warring parties. With stakes being as high as they are in custody cases, and children being as deeply affected as they are by acrimony between parents, mediators fill a critical void and can be a great help to a family in crisis.