Mediation Time - Too Early or Too Late / by Cassandra Hearn

Mediation is an excellent tool to help couples settle their differences out of court. Mediation can bring a case to a swift conclusion by putting a measure of control into the hands of the parties. Parties have the opportunity to discuss the issues with a neutral person, and ultimately can craft their own agreement, keeping their family’s needs in mind. That said, the timing of mediation can be important in ensuring it is effective and successful.

Conducting mediation may be ineffective for a variety of reasons. First, it may be because the emotional trauma of the separation or conflict is too fresh. If one or both parties are still too angry or upset and cannot set aside their emotional burden to think clearly about financial or custody decisions, it is probably too early for mediation. Waiting for a cooling off period can be important, as it allows the parties to gain perspective and think rationally about the decisions that need to be made. Second, in many cases the discovery process is crucial to making sure that all the issues are covered. If, for example, mediation is conducted before discovery, it may be that some of the financial accounts are inaccurately valued or even missed completely. Mediating before you have a comprehensive idea of the value of your entire marital estate is a mistake. Third, if children are involved, waiting until a bit later to conduct mediation allows both parents to settle into their new homes and the children to adjust to the routines. Providing this type of adjustment period can allow parents to gain important perspective on the children’s needs and how they may change after the separation. This type of understanding allows parents to craft a parenting schedule that is closely tailored to their children’s particular needs.

By contrast, it is rarely “too late” for mediation. Mediation can be well placed at various stages in the case.  For example, it may be optimal to agree to a mediation after a motion has been brought where the issues have been clearly identified and explored, and where the parties hope to save the cost of in-court litigation.  Settlements before trial are also quite common. Couples who settle at mediation often find the work at mediation to be so helpful that they include as a term of their settlement that they will mediate again if new disagreements arise.

We have extensive experience in helping our clients successfully complete mediation at a time that best suits their case. Call us today for an appointment at 619-800-0384 to talk about your case and how mediation can work to your advantage.