Mediation: A Family Law Cornerstone

What Is Mediation?

Mediation is a voluntary process in which the parties to a divorce or other family matter come together and, with the help of a neutral mediator, attempt to resolve or settle the issues involved in their case. In doing so, they avoid having to go to court and participate in a hearing or trial. Generally, each side of the case is kept in separate rooms and the mediator goes back and forth between them to help resolve all outstanding issues.

Normally the parties' attorneys attend mediation with them. At the end of mediation, the parties and attorneys will sign a memorandum of understanding or mediated agreement, which is a binding contract that can be submitted to the court for approval.

Mediation helps many people avoid the cost and emotional toll of litigation while offering a concrete resolution to their case. Most divorce and juvenile courts require one or more mediation sessions prior to setting a case for trial or even before having temporary custody hearings.

How Does Mediation Work?

The mediator will meet with you, your spouse and your attorneys to determine the issues pending in your case. The mediator may then meet separately with each side to get additional information and discuss settlement options. The mediator is not a judge and will not issue any rulings or make any determinations. The mediator will also not give legal advice. The mediator's role is simply to facilitate a settlement between the parties. The ultimate decision is made by the parties themselves.

What Are The Benefits Of Mediation?

Mediation allows the parties to structure and define their own settlement agreement. If a hearing or trial is held in court, the judge determines issues like parenting schedules, payment of bills and division of property. If these same issues are addressed in mediation, however, the parties can use creative solutions that cater to their family, their work schedules and their lives.

Mediation eliminates the risk of an unknown outcome in court. It is also much less costly and time-consuming than an extended court battle.

When And Why Do People Use Mediation?

In Tennessee, there are several circumstances when mediation can be used voluntarily and others when it is required or favored by the court system. For instance, in all contested divorce cases in the state, parties are required to attend at least one mediation session prior to having their case go to trial pursuant to T.C.A. 36-4-131.

Another example is when parties have already finalized their divorce but want to modify their parenting schedule, relocate or address other issues involving the children, such as extracurricular events or special needs. Before going to court to change a parenting plan, the parties must first participate in mediation according to the standard parenting plan form. Also, cases involving unmarried parents or relatives seeking custody are also routinely referred to mediation by the juvenile courts in our area. Sometimes mediation can resolve cases even before any court filing is made.

Do I Need An Attorney?

No. You are not required to hire an attorney to request or attend mediation. However, the mediator will not be able to give you any legal advice, even if he or she is an attorney. Therefore, many people choose to have their lawyers set up or attend mediation with them.

How Much Does It Cost?

Mediation costs can vary on a case-by-case basis. Generally, the parties split the cost of mediation evenly and will pay the mediator by the hour the day of mediation. A mediation session usually ranges from $200 to $600 per party. Cash, check and credit cards are accepted.

Where Does Mediation Occur?

Generally, a mediation session is held either at the mediator's office or at the office of one of the attorneys involved in the matter. At McKellar & Easter, Attorneys at Law, we have two separate conference rooms and additional offices available for mediation purposes to ensure confidentiality and comfort.

How Do I Schedule Mediation?

To schedule a free initial telephone consultation with one of our lawyers, call 865-566-0125 or fill out this contact form. During your consultation, we can discuss your case and determine if mediation is the best option for you.