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5 Things to Consider When Selecting a Family Law Mediator

Mediation is a settlement process that brings parties together in an attempt to resolve their disputes. A mediator is a neutral third party hired to facilitate the negotiation. It is important to note that mediators are not decision makers or judges, which means mediators have no authority to force an agreement or make any binding decisions. Instead, a mediator ensures that the process is fair, facilitates productive communication between the parties, and offers overall assistance in reaching a resolution.

The mediation session is a confidential meeting, meaning any offers made by the parties cannot be repeated to the judge. This rule allows for parties to openly negotiate without fear of it being held against them at a future court hearing. For example, if one party offers to pay $1,000 per month in child support at mediation and then subsequently at court asks the judge to order only $500 per month, the mediation offer cannot be raised or held against them.

Most mediations include the mediator, the parties, and the parties’ attorneys. Mediations can be conducted in many different styles. The most common style of mediation in Colorado is to have each party and their attorney in separate rooms with the mediator shuttling back and forth to relay offers and responses.

In Colorado, most family law cases are ordered to go through at least one mediation session. In fact, some Colorado courts will not even schedule a trial date until mediation is completed. While some people may fear mediation, the fact is that many cases settle—partially or in full—at mediation. Therefore, mediation is quite helpful and can even resolve the case in its entirety.

One of the most important aspects of mediation is the choice of mediator. When making this decision, the following factors should be considered:

  1.  Availability
    • While there are hundreds of mediators to choose from, the most sought-after mediators have busy calendars. Most Colorado courts will require that the mediation be conducted by a specific date. Therefore, in order to comply with the court’s expectation, the mediator must have availability that accommodates the deadline.
  2.  Cost
    • The cost of mediation varies widely. There are generally mediators to suit any budget.
  3.  Professional Background
    • Mediators come from a variety of backgrounds, with the most common being attorneys and former judges. However, some mediators have backgrounds in non-legal fields, such as social work, mental health, and accounting. Each mediation has its own challenges and nuances. Choosing a mediator with a relevant background can go a long way in reaching a resolution.
  4. Knowledge of the Judge
    • Some mediators will be familiar with the judge assigned to the case being mediated. This can be helpful because the mediator will have a better grasp on how the judge will handle and rule on the case.
  5. Effectiveness
    • As with any other industry, some mediators are simply more effective than others. The ultimate goal of mediation is usually to reach some resolution, whether in whole or in part. The settlement rate of the mediator can give the parties an understanding of how likely they are to achieve resolution with that specific mediator.

At Burnham Law, our family law attorneys are skilled in mediation and in the courtroom. While our successes in the courtroom are well publicized, we are equally proud of our ability to reach satisfactory settlements through mediation, saving our clients time, stress, and money.

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