the Mediation & Ad Litem Division of Leigh Law
What is Mediation?
Mediation is a form of “Alternative Dispute Resolution,” which is a fancy way of saying it is an alternative to the traditional model of going to court and letting a judge decide. It is much less stressful, less time consuming, and often much less expensive. Studies show that all parties are happier and tend to follow agreements reached through mediation better than court orders. The process is a facilitated process based on trainings and studies which move parties toward a resolution. It is not therapy or counseling.
Mediation goes beyond “negotiations” & is confidential
Mediation is a structured process which has been developed the last twenty years that goes far beyond ordinary “negotiations” between parties without the aid of a trained, neutral third party. The process is private and confidential; the mediated agreement (if reached) is enforceable by a judge as a contract. Participation is generally voluntary (although some judges order it).
While court hearings are public, mediation remains strictly confidential. No one but the parties to the dispute and the mediator know what happened. Confidentiality in mediation has such importance that in most cases the legal system cannot force a mediator to testify in court as to the content or progress of mediation. The only exceptions to such strict confidentiality usually involve child abuse or actual or threatened criminal acts.
In most circumstances the mere fact that parties are willing to mediate means that they are ready to “move” their position. The parties are more amenable to understanding the other party’s side and work on underlying issues to the dispute. This has the added benefit of often preserving the relationship the parties had before the dispute.
What is an Attorney Ad Litem?
As attorneys ad litem, Leigh Law represents the children’s interest in domestic issues. Especially in contested cases, many judges will require an ad litem to be appointed. Each parent has a lawyer – the children should too. The ad litem interviews both parents, maybe conducts home or school visits, and interviews the children with both parents and alone. The ad litem will also speak with all other counselors and attorneys involved in the case to provide a written recommendation to the Court.
Ad Litem’s or Mediator’s Role
As a mediator or Ad Litem, the attorneys at Leigh Law cannot otherwise be involved in the case or represent other parties in the litigation. The Ad litem or mediator is a neutral third party involved in the matter to make recommendations and/or work toward a resolution that is agreeable and good for both parties and the children. Mediating a case removes the guess-work for parties; particularly in the area of domestic relations where parties will have to maintain some kind of relationship for the sake of shared children, mediation provides a process where each party walks away with the ability to co-parent. Parents are happier, more satisfied, and more likely to follow an agreement they have developed themselves as opposed to a judge’s order.
As a mediator or Ad Litem, we have an equal and balanced responsibility to assist each mediating party and cannot favor the interests of any one party over another, nor should the mediator favor a particular result in the mediation. The mediator’s role is to ensure that parties reach agreements in a voluntarily and informed manner, and not as a result of coercion or intimidation.
Mediators and Ad litems are trained in working with difficult situations to be the neutral facilitator and guide the parties through the process. The mediator helps the parties think “outside of the box” for possible solutions to the dispute, broadening the range of possible solutions and increasing the chances of avoiding a trial.
The attorneys, Ad Litems, and mediators at Leigh Law have countless hours of training and experience and are very effective at obtaining positive results.
While a mediator may charge a fee comparable to that of an attorney, the mediation process generally takes much less time than moving a case through standard legal channels. While a case in the hands of a lawyer or a court may take months or years to resolve, mediation usually achieves a resolution in a matter of hours. Taking less time means expending less money on hourly fees and costs.
There is also a federally funded program available to domestic relations clients which provides no cost or reduced cost (depending on income) mediation services to resolve child custody, visitation, and child support issues.
Traditional Ad Litems can be very expensive. Leigh Law offers a limited Ad Litem & Mediation program that keeps costs down for the parents while still satisfying the requirements and responsibilities of the Ad Litem and/or mediation prcess for the children. Call us today to discuss further!