Q. What is mediation?
A. Mediation is a problem-solving process in which a neutral person, the mediator, assists parties in discussing issues. The mediator helps parties understand each other's needs. Then parties discuss options for an agreement.
Q. How does mediation work?
A. If mediation is appropriate, the Court schedules a mediation session and provides a mediator. The mediator guides the communication process so that all parties have a chance to speak. Issues are discussed one at a time, along with possible solutions to each issue. The mediator does not decide the outcome. A decision is reached only if all parties agree to it.
Q. What are the benefits of mediation?
A. Parties make a plan rather than have the Court decide the case. Mediation is a process that gives parties the opportunity to settle issues in a way that fits their situation. All parties must agree to what is decided.
Q. Do I need an attorney?
A. An attorney is not necessary to participate in mediation. However, if you have an attorney and would like an attorney to accompany you to the mediation, please feel free to do so. Mediation involves legal decisions and can affect important legal rights. Attorneys help their clients understand the law and make informed decisions. The mediator focuses on the process and cannot give legal advice. People involved in mediation may consult with an attorney at any time.
Q. How long is a mediation session?
A. A mediation session is scheduled for three and a half hours, but may take less time, depending upon the parties. During the course of the mediation, the mediator may speak privately with some parties or ask certain participants to meet separately on specific issues. Mediation is usually completed in one session. A second session may be scheduled depending upon the complexity of the issues and whether parties need to gather more information.
Q. Is the mediation agreement legally binding?
A. When the mediation agreement is signed by both parties, it will be forwarded to the Court to be signed by the Magistrate and Judge. The sections of the agreement which are signed by the Magistrate and Judge are binding and enforceable by law.
Q. What happens if an agreement is reached?
A. The parties appear before a Magistrate, who has final approval of the agreement and signs the document referred to as an entry.
Q. What happens if an agreement is not reached?
A. A Magistrate or Judge conducts a Court hearing and makes the final decision. The outcome is no longer in the control of the parties, but in that of the Court.
Q. Is mediation confidential?
A. Statements made during mediation are generally confidential. No person may disclose a statement made during mediation. However, there is a duty to report to appropriate authorities new information about child or elderly abuse, felonies or threats of harm.