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Connecticut Family Law Attorneys Use Mediation to Resolve Disputes

Alternative dispute resolution can simplify your Connecticut divorce

There are options available which can help keep you (and your private life) out of a courtroom. If you are going through a divorce or are engaged in another type of family law dispute, taking your case to trial can be expensive, inconvenient and stressful. Needle | Cuda can use mediation as a way to avoid a protracted litigation when our clients reach an impasse on a particularly contentious issue or range of issues (e.g. the valuation of a closely held business). Our Westport family law attorneys are adept at advising clients on how they can maximize the benefits of mediation in putting their legal troubles behind them.

Our approach to family law mediation

Mediation is a method of dispute resolution used in many types of civil cases, including divorce. Private mediation requires agreement of both parties to the mediation. The parties and their attorneys meet with a neutral third party, the mediator, who guides discussions on issues in dispute, such as alimony, child custody, child support and division of property. Our attorneys also serve as review counsel for mediations where the parties meet with a mediator without counsel. However, our recommendation is having counsel directly participate in the mediation process itself, in order to have someone present during the negotiation itself. An advocate can help shape the flow of the negotiation on your behalf, explain your rights under the law and look out for your interests throughout, including what information is necessary to be provided. Without a lawyer by your side, the flow of the mediation may be more about getting to “yes” than what is fair for you, especially if there is an uneven power dynamic in the marriage. A mediator, after all, is neutral and does not represent you. Often, having the benefit of counsel in selecting the right mediator for your matter can be extremely helpful to the outcome.

Mediation can present a boiled-down process to give an idea of what the outcome might be at trial and to get to that outcome by agreement, sooner rather than later, with inclusion of certain carefully crafted details that a judge might not include after trial. Mediation sessions can be joint or individual and may take place over the course of a morning, a day, a series of days or even over a number of weeks depending on what is agreed upon and necessary to work toward conclusion of the matter. The mediator can separate out the disputed issues in ways that make them easier to discuss dispassionately. If you are successful in resolving your main areas of dispute, you begin work on crafting a marital settlement agreement. Sometimes that work will begin the same day as the mediation itself. If the judge then approves your settlement agreement, it becomes part of your divorce decree. If you do not reach a complete settlement, outstanding issues may be held over for trial.

In addition to divorce, our clients have used mediation to resolve such other family law issues as:

  • Child custody and related issues
  • Post-divorce financial issues, including alimony and child support
  • Post-divorce child custody and parenting plan disputes

Mediation has proven so effective that often the family court will require some version of the method to be attempted before allowing a case to go to trial. Thus, even if you do not elect to do private mediation, you may still be required to engage in some form of a pretrial — a court-sponsored mediation program — although that will likely not be as in-depth as a private mediation could be.

Advantages of family law mediation

There are many advantages to keep in mind when considering mediation, such as:

  • Time — You aren’t constrained by the busy court calendar. You can schedule mediation sessions on your own and move forward at your own pace. This generally results in a much faster resolution.
  • Privacy — In contrast to a trial, which takes place in a public courtroom, mediation sessions are private, involving only the spouses, their lawyers and the neutral third party. All documents and communications are completely confidential. No written record is kept, unless there is an agreement to do so.
  • Control — Mediation is entirely voluntary, so the parties can decide which issues they wish to discuss and resolve. You don’t have to agree to anything you consider objectionable. At the end of the process, you have an agreement you have participated in crafting, rather than being subjected to divorce provisions imposed by a judge.
  • Lower expense — Mediation avoids many of the costs of taking a case to trial. These include attorneys’ fees, costs of pretrial discovery and expert witness fees. While mediators also charge for their services, the overall cost is less than going to trial.
  • Less stress — Mediation is less adversarial, so it encourages cooperation rather than combativeness. If you have children, you may be able to spare them the stress of being interviewed by court personnel or having to appear in court.

For mediation to be effective, the spouses should have mutual respect and be willing to work with each other. Mediation may be contraindicated in some cases, such as where there has been domestic abuse. Mediation of a high-net-worth divorce can be ineffective if either spouse is not forthright about their financial assets — or it may be important to evaluate when mediation can go forward effectively after appropriate discovery of those assets has taken place. A Westport family law attorney can evaluate your circumstances and help you decide if family law mediation may be right for you. If your mediation is unsuccessful, we are ready to litigate your issues aggressively in court.

Contact our Westport, CT family law attorneys for mediation services

If you are engaged in a family law dispute in Fairfield County, Needle | Cuda is ready to help. We provide mediation services focused on delivering positive results. To arrange a consultation, call us today at 203-429-4151 or contact our Westport office online.

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