Magnuson Lowell Blog
Each week we post a blog about relevant legal issues. Glance through our various topics to learn more about a particular legal situation.
Divorce mediation can confer benefits on the involved parties and save time for the court. For this reason, while Washington state law does not mandate it, some county courts do require parties to participate in some form of alternate dispute resolution, such as mediation, before proceeding to trial.
The mediator's role
In Washington, the parties can agree to select any mediator of their choice. For example, many pursue mediation with a clergyperson belonging to their religious denomination. A mediator can benefit from experience in this area of family law as an attorney, judge or related capacity.
A mediator does not make decisions and has no power to order the participants to agree to anything. He or she acts as a facilitator who guides the parties into compromising and achieving an agreement. If they refuse to agree or to disclose information, the mediator cannot do anything about it.
The effectiveness for couples
While mediation presents itself as an obvious choice for divorcing couples with good communication and willingness to cooperate, it can be an option even when the spouses are dealing with a high level of negative emotion. Many mediations take place with each party in a separate room while the mediator goes back and forth, speaking with each individually. This helps deescalate emotions and enables a more productive mindset.
Help from a lawyer
Most people choose to attend mediation with their attorney. Without a lawyer, a spouse may have difficulty knowing whether he or she should accept an offer and what the potential ramifications could be. Lawyers may assist the mediator in drafting any agreements.
Waivers of mediation requirements
If the court requires mediation, but a couple has good reasons not to want it, they can request a waiver from the judge. However, if one party wants the mediation and the other does not, a judge can compel the unwilling party to participate.
Mediation may offer a variety of benefits to divorcing couples. It is helpful to speak with an attorney to learn more and protect individual interests throughout the divorce process.