Making The Most of Mediation

scrabble-resolutionsMediation is required in all family law matters in the State of Colorado. In post-decree cases, mediation is often a requirement before a party may file with the Court again. If you are involved in a post-decree matter, check your previous court documents (such as your Parenting Plan, Parenting Time Order, or Separation Agreement) to see if there is a mediation clause.

Mediation can be a really strong tool to settle your case if you approach it the right way. Instead of seeing mediation as another check off the list towards a hearing, see it as the best way to resolve your conflict. Here are some tips on getting the most of mediation:

1. Select a mediator you want to work with. The State provides mediation services through the Office of Dispute Resolution (ODR). These services are the lowest rate (currently $60/party/hour, minimum two hours). There are a great group of mediators who work at ODR rates (and also private rates). You may also hire a private mediator at a higher rate. When selecting a mediator, don’t hesitate to interview them a little bit to see if they’d be a good fit for your case. Ask them if they’ve worked on your type of case before and what they specialize in.

2. Create a personal list of goals for mediation. Take some time to think about your case and what you want from it. What are your deal breakers? What are you willing to let go if you could settle? Make a list for yourself. It will help you get in the right state of mind for mediation.

3. Make sure you’ve completed Court requirements before mediation. The two big requirements are usually your Sworn Financial Statement (and disclosures) and taking your parenting class (if you’ve never taken one). Check the Case Management Order (CMO) issued by the Judge and make sure you’re meeting deadlines in your case. Otherwise, mediation won’t be as helpful as it could be. For example, there’s no point in mediating a child support case if both parties failed to exchange financial information before mediation. The mediator, as well as the parties, need that information to hold settlement talks.

4. Understand the mediation process. Mediation typically occurs in separate rooms, unless the parties feel comfortable meeting in one room. The mediator serves as a messenger between the two parties. The mediator traditionally meets with the party who started the case (the Petitioner). There is a lot of down time during mediation because of the meetings between the parties. Third parties are not allowed at mediation, so keep your family members, friends, and significant others at home. Do not bring your kids to mediation (or to any other part of your case, unless the Court orders them to appear).

5. Mentally prepare yourself. Family law cases are stressful. They usually involve a lot of conflict and emotions. It’s important you find a healthy way to handle the stress and your feelings. Have you considered talking to a counselor? Or to a good friend or family member? Successful mediation happens when both parties are able to set aside their emotions and focus on the big issues on the table.

6. Give it your best shot. Actively listen to the mediator and what the other party says to the mediator. Take notes and be willing to think outside of the box for solutions. Courts appreciate parties who are able to settle their differences without going to a hearing. Settlement reflects highly on you as well as the other side. The judge will remember your mediation success and thank you for it, as will anyone affected by the dispute (such as your kids)!

Did you know you can hire us to help you prepare for mediation by the hour? You can also have us “on call” during mediation so you can make sure you’re settlement is headed the right direction. Contact us today for more information about unbundled services through the Colorado Family Law Project.