Webster’s Dictionary defines conflict as a “mental struggle resulting from incompatible or opposing needs, drives, wishes or external or internal demands.” No truer words have described a divorce. In the typical divorce scenario, one spouse sues the other spouse for divorce, both parties “lawyer up,” and the battle is on. Divorce is costly and the outcome is uncertain.
Throughout the legal community, an awareness has emerged that the Courthouse is not always the best place for people to get help when in conflict. Increasingly, people are turning to mediation as an alternative dispute resolution method as opposed to the traditional adversarial legal process. Parties and lawyers have begun to seek out divorce mediators, either at the beginning or during the divorce process, in an effort to resolve their conflict. In addition, Courts will often order parties to mediation in an effort to afford parties an opportunity to have a say so in the outcome of their divorce.
“Mediation is a non-adversarial method of resolving conflict that involves disputing parties sitting down together with a skilled impartial individual, called a mediator, who helps them work out a voluntary solution to the problem that is acceptable to everyone involved.” The mediator is not like a judge; the mediator does not decide or opine who is right or wrong, nor does the mediator tell the parties how their problem should be resolved.
A lawyer’s goal in the representation of his/her client is very clear. The Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct dictate that a lawyer be a zealous advocate for his/her client. To that end, a lawyer will maximize the client’s goals by using his/her knowledge of state statutes, case law, and skills in the litigation process.
Mediators, however, don’t take sides. Instead, they assist ALL parties in reaching a workable, specific agreement that the parties find equitable under their unique set of circumstances. In order for mediation to be successful, it is necessary that both parties make a full financial disclosure as well as disclose concerns each may have regarding parenting of the children. Some lawyers choose to participate in the mediation process, while others choose to have their clients attend alone.
Finding a trained mediator who is a family law attorney is most beneficial to the divorcing couple. The mediator who has practiced in the area of family law brings unique knowledge to the table which the parties may not have, i.e. preferences of the judge or magistrate, knowledge of the local rules of court, knowledge of the law, etc. These insights help the parties make independent informed decisions about the terms of their divorce and their future communication.
Rule 16 of the Rules of Superintendence for the Courts of Ohio sets forth the requirements to hold oneself out as a divorce mediator. In addition to possessing a bachelor’s degree and having at least two years professional experience with families, an individual must complete at least twelve hours of basic mediation training, at least forty hours of specialized family or divorce mediation, and at least fourteen hours of specialized training in domestic abuse and mediation.
If faced with a divorce or other litigious family matter, I would encourage you to talk with your attorney about the possibility of mediation. In addition to saving time and money, mediation affords the parties an opportunity to resolve their conflict quickly, before disputes further escalate, thus preserving their working relationship. Lastly, mediation assists the parties in learning effective communication skills, which will hopefully allow them to avoid future conflict.
* This is an advertisement. The information provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. You should consult an attorney for legal advice regarding your particular situation.