If you are going through a family matter in court in Indianapolis, you might be required or encouraged to go through mediation. This is an out-of-court process that can help you and your co-parent, spouse, or another party reach an agreement.
What Is Mediation?
The American Bar Association defines mediation as a private process during which a neutral third person helps the parties discuss and try to resolve their dispute. This is an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) method. Mediation happens out of court. It might be part of a court case or not. The neutral third party is the mediator. This person does not make any decisions for the parties. Only the parties involved can reach an agreement. The mediator helps you communicate and keep the conversation on track.
The Mediation Process
The mediation process can differ slightly depending on your situation. Usually, you, the other party, and your mediator will meet during a joint session. The mediator will explain the rules and relevant parts of Indiana mediation law. The mediator will establish the agenda for this first session.
You are probably not going to solve all your issues right away. You might meet with the mediator several times. You and the other party might meet with the mediator separately too. It can take several meetings to reach a compromise. The mediator helps you create a written agreement to present to the family court for approval.
An essential part of the mediation process is the initial case intake process with your attorney. During this stage, your mediation lawyer will gather information from you and set expectations.
During this step, both parties will make an initial statement of their cases and will settle on the issues at hand. An agenda will be established as well as a timeline.
Both parties lawyers will meet together and attempt to boil down the real concerns and interests, while mitigating the differences. At times, parties are so focused on small details that they fail to realize the larger issues.
These sessions occur when the parties separate and are often called caucuses. Lawyers will try to discover any hidden needs and evaluate all of the options.
Parties will join together again and negotiate the terms of a feasible arrangement. The mediator often processes the arrangement through a reality test in view of both parties’ needs and interests. Lawyers will deal with impasses and manage gaps.
If the parties are able to come to an agreement, then terms will be finalized and a settlement agreement will be made. If no agreement is made, then the parties will prepare for a court hearing.
Mediation fees and charges will be applied and follow up tasks will be determined.
Mediation Might Be Optional or Required
You and the other party can decide to go through mediation. But it is common for a family law judge to order parties in a divorce or child custody battle to go through mediation. The purpose is to save time and reserve court resources.
Using Experts During Mediation
You might benefit from getting an expert opinion during mediation. During mediation for custody, you might work with a child development expert to support your argument for what is the best parenting plan. Or, during divorce mediation in Indiana, you might hire a forensic accountant, property evaluator, or tax specialist.
How Much Does Mediation Cost?
Mediation services are typically less expensive than litigation. Talk with your lawyer about mediation expenses, including the cost of hiring a mediator. A mediator’s fees are usually split between the parties.
By comparison, going to a hearing or trial can be expensive because of additional legal fees, court costs, and discovery expenses. The discovery process can be lengthy and may require experts to interpret information. Your family law attorney likely charges hourly, and a mediation will take less time than preparing for and attending a trial.
How an Indianapolis Mediation Attorney Can Help You
Whether you are going through mediation for issues in a divorce or during a child custody case, you should work with a family law attorney for legal advice. You are not required to have a lawyer during mediation, but it is recommended. An attorney will be licensed with the state bar and has legal knowledge beyond someone who has taken a few hours of mediation classes.
A Lawyer Prepares You for Mediation
You need to know all the facts surrounding your situation. You also need proof of those facts. Legal representation will help you gather documentation for mediation. For example, if a financial issue arises during a divorce, your lawyer will help you gather tax returns, pay stubs, financial account statements, credit card statements, and other relevant records.
A Lawyer Explains the Law and Your Rights
You need to understand the law relevant to your issue, whether it is the division of property, alimony, child support, or child custody. Your lawyer will make sure you are fully aware of your rights under Indiana law.
A Lawyer Brainstorms Creative Solutions
One of the benefits of using mediation is personalized outcomes. Your lawyer will work closely with you to come up with unique solutions to your issue instead of a court’s one-size-fits-all solution.
A Lawyer Helps You Define Realistic Goals
You may really want a specific resolution to your case. But that outcome might not be realistic. Your lawyer will talk with you about possible and likely outcomes so you can save time and pursue realistic goals.
A Lawyer Notices When Mediation Isn’t Working
Your lawyer will tell you when it seems like more mediation would be a waste of time. It might not be an ideal outcome, but your Indianapolis mediation attorney can advise you on when it is best to go to court.
Finding a Mediator in Indianapolis
Attorney Sean Hessler is an experienced mediation attorney and licensed mediator in Indiana with a focus on family law cases. Registered mediators for Indiana domestic relations cases must be an attorney in good standing or have at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university. They must complete an approved domestic relations mediation training. They also must complete continuing education requirements every three years.
Your Mediator Should Be a Lawyer
Not all registered mediators in Indiana are lawyers. You should have someone guiding your case who knows what it is like in the courtroom. Attorney Hessler brings years of experience helping individuals and families through difficult divorce and child custody cases to his mediation sessions. His priority is helping families move forward with solutions that work for them.
When is Mediation an Option?
Mediation is a good option for when spouses or co-parents need time and help to reach the best decisions for their families.
During a divorce, spouses might need to reach agreements based on what is considered marital or separate property, the division of shared assets and debts, alimony, and other decisions that will have financial and tax ramifications. Spouses can use mediation to discuss how to divide property and debt equitably.
Child Custody Mediation
Parents are in the best position to decide the right parenting plan for their children. Mediation for custody allows parents to create a custom schedule that considers their children’s specific needs and any unique circumstances. Parents can consider how to transition their children to a new arrangement over time or how to build flexibility into the plan.
Child Support Mediation
For some families, Indiana’s child support calculations are not the best possible outcome. The parent with the most time with the child might need more support. The paying parent might be having a hard time financially and need to pay less. Parents can work together to decide on a fair amount of support.
Other Family Law Mediations
Many family issues that could end up in court might be resolved through mediation with the help of an Indianapolis mediation attorney. You might choose to go through mediation when guardianship of a child or disabled adult is at stake or to decide grandparents’ rights and visitations. You should consult a skilled lawyer before making any decisions about your specific situation.
Parenting Coordination in Indiana
Parenting Coordination is a court-ordered, child-focused ADR method like mediation. During Parenting Coordination, a parenting coordinator is appointed to help you and your child’s other parent manage on-going conflicts. This process is often ordered by a judge when co-parents continuously have a hard time managing their parenting plan—otherwise known as “high conflict parties.” The purpose of Parenting Coordination is to help co-parents improve their communication skills and refocus their efforts on their children’s needs.
A Parenting Coordinator Is Not a Lawyer
A parenting coordinator cannot act as either person’s attorney. Though you might be assigned a parenting coordinator during a child custody case, you also should have an Indianapolis mediation attorney as well.
Parenting Coordinators Can Make Some Decisions
The point of a parenting coordinator is to help parents who are continuously fighting over basic parenting decisions and to keep these parents out of court. To that end, coordinators can make basic decisions for parents. For example, a coordinator might help parents interpret their parenting time assignments and create a useful calendar. They can provide a binding recommendation to the family court to resolve an issue when necessary.
Parenting Coordinators’ Decision-Making Power is Limited
The difference between mediation and Parenting Coordination is that the coordinator can make certain decisions. However, the parenting coordinator cannot substantially change the percentage of parenting time each parent receives, modify the child custody arrangement, or resolve any financial matters like child support or college expenses.
Potential Benefits of Mediation
Mediation is potentially beneficial for individuals who are willing to sit down, talk through their differences, and compromise.
The potential benefits of family law mediation include:
- Less stress. Many individuals find going to court and facing a judge very stressful. Using mediation helps people stay out of the courtroom.
- Focusing on resolving the issue instead of fighting. Going to court can seem inherently contentious. You are one side, and your ex-spouse or co-parent is on the other. It seems like it’s a fight to get what you want, and in the end, no one really wins. The process of mediation is collaborative and focuses on reaching a resolution.
- Better communication. Mediation requires that you and the other party learn to communicate with each other. This is highly beneficial if you and the other person must continue co-parenting.
- Allows for custom solutions. When you ask a judge to decide an issue, you are going to get a solution many other spouses or parents received before. It will not be a solution personalized to your family’s needs. Mediation allows you to create unique and personal solutions that fit the people and circumstances involved.
- Avoids unpredictable results. When you go to court for a family matter, each party presents their arguments and evidence to the judge. Then, the judge decides. You might think you know how the judge will decide, but there is no guarantee. Going through mediation can lower the risk of unwelcome surprises.
- Setting your own pace. Waiting to get a court date and then waiting for a judge to make a decision is stressful. It can draw out a divorce or child custody case. By using mediation, you and the other party can set the schedule and move forward as quickly or as slowly as you need.
- Flexible scheduling. You do not have to stick to a court schedule for mediation sessions. You, the other party, and the mediator can schedule sessions at whatever time works for your schedules, including evenings and weekends.
- Reducing costs. Though it is not guaranteed, ADR like mediation, arbitration, and parenting coordination can reduce costs. Having to litigate everything in court can be extremely expensive.
When Mediation May Not Be Appropriate
Mediation is not appropriate:
- If there is a history of physical or emotional abuse. The victim of abuse in a relationship is the victim of a power imbalance that can be perpetuated during mediation. Because of the inherent power imbalance between the two people, mediation will not result in a compromise or fair outcome.
- If one person has shown themselves unwilling or unable to control their emotions. Mediation is not about shouting and yelling at each other. If one parent or spouse cannot have a productive conversation, then the parties are unlikely to reach a resolution.
- When a child’s safety is at risk. If a child custody issue arises because a parent fears for their child’s safety or well-being while with the other parent, then this is a reason to seek an immediate, emergency decision by the judge.
- If one party is mentally ill or abusing alcohol or controlled substances. A party who is mentally ill or abusing alcohol or drugs is not in the right state of mind to go through mediation. It also might be important for a judge to make a decision to protect any children involved.
Contact an Indianapolis Mediation Attorney Today
You do not have to fight everything out in court. You can use mediation to talk things through and make tough decisions for you and your family. Mediation often can be a more collaborative and fulfilling process. Let Attorney Hessler provide legal services to help you use mediation to get the best results in your family law matter in the Indianapolis area.
Reach Hessler Law, PC by calling (317) 886-8800 or submitting your information through our online form. Our law office is located at 120 E. Market Street, Suite 420, in Indianapolis. We also provide services to people throughout Indiana, including Carmel, Zionsville, Greenwood, Fishers, Noblesville, Danville, Hendricks, Westfield, and other localities.