Mediation is a process which is often used to resolve legal disputes among individuals. This process is particularly useful in the family law context. In Alabama, divorce and post-divorce cases (such as modification and contempt matters) are sometimes ordered to mediation by the Court. Other times, the parties themselves choose to participate in mediation in an effort to resolve their dispute. Prior to any mediation, it is important for individuals to understand the process and benefits of mediation. Below are several key factors to consider:
1. Who will mediate my case? Mediation is conducted by a mediator, often referred to as a third-party neutral, who has no interest in the outcome of the case. The mediator is either appointed by the court or chosen by the parties. The Alabama Center for Dispute Resolution maintains a roster of mediators who have met Alabama’s Mediator Registration Standards and are qualified to conduct mediations in Alabama. Mediators who are specially trained in family law mediation are available across the state to help litigants resolve their legal disputes. Alabama’s Mediator Roster for family law mediators can be found at the following link: http://www.alabamaadr.org/web/roster-mediators/index.php?text=&aop=71&AddCounty=&action=Search.
2. What are the benefits of mediation? Mediation provides an alternative to litigation that can save significant time and costs for parties involved in a legal dispute. In many parts of the state, the judicial system is overburdened, often resulting in long waits for a trial date. Further, litigation can become costly, with attorney’s fees, guardian ad litem fees, costs, etc. Mediation provides an efficient alternative which can be used prior to the filing of a case or during a pending case.
3. Will the case be resolved? Mediation has proven to be successful in a majority of cases. In 2015, Alabama Registered Mediators resolved over 70% of divorce matters mediated by Registered Mediators that year (of those reported). Mediation is a confidential process, so information disclosed as part of mediation cannot be disclosed in court.
It is anticipated that more and more litigants will take advantage of the mediation process as the time and costs of litigation continue to increase.
--Anna L. Hart, is a Registered Mediator in the State of Alabama.