Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution process available to resolve divorce cases. Mediation is a method by which parties can voluntarily attempt to resolve their divorce-related disputes outside of the courtroom with the assistance of one or more trained mediators.

While the primary goal of mediation is settlement, it is important to realize that mediators have no decision-making authority, and therefore cannot force either party to accept the proposals of the other. Like all alternative dispute resolution methods, the likelihood for success in mediation depends, in large part, on the ability and willingness of each spouse to participate in reasonable, respectful discussions with the other spouse and to be willing to compromise.

A law degree is not a prerequisite for becoming a mediator, so some mediators are lawyers and some are not. It is not uncommon for issues such as child custody, visitation, or child support to be handled by non-attorney mediators. However, when seeking to mediate more complex divorce issues such as equitable distribution, you should consider engaging as a mediator a knowledgeable and experienced family law attorney.

In some family law cases, the parties engage two mediators, one of each gender, though there is no requirement of two mediators. The parties may, but are not required to, be represented by counsel in the mediation process.

In furtherance of Virginia’s public policy support of settlement, courts have the authority to order the parties to attempt mediation prior to litigating contested issues at trial. Because courts cannot force the parties to ultimately agree on issues that they otherwise have a right to bring before a judge, a court’s authority to order mediation is typically limited to ordering attendance at an informational orientation on the availability, details, and advantages of the mediation process. It is then up to the parties to decide whether they wish to engage in mediation.

Steve Raynor has extensive experience representing clients in the mediation process, and he is also himself a trained mediator. Please contact Steve Raynor if you need representation in a mediation procedure, or if you and your spouse wish to retain him as a neutral to help you mediate any divorce or family law issues.

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