If you are like many people, your only glimpse inside a courtroom comes from thrilling television legal dramas rather than actively participating in a lawsuit. And if you have stepped inside the courtroom, you might never want to do so again! Either way, facing a formal legal proceeding can be intimidating.
Oklahoma lawmakers recognized the need for alternative methods to resolve legal disputes and avoid the costly and contentious trial experience, if possible. With the Oklahoma Dispute Resolution Act, our Legislature provided the avenue to those alternatives. Mediation allows parties to a lawsuit to potentially resolve issues outside the courtroom.
How does it work?
Either by mutual agreement or order of the court, the parties meet in the mediator’s office. Each side then discusses concerns individually with the mediator. If represented by legal counsel, your attorney accompanies you to mediation. However, mediation allows you to communicate freely with the mediator, rather than observing the speaking formalities of the courtroom.
What are the benefits?
- Time: Trials involve a long and cumbersome affair with added stress heaped on everyone involved. With mediation, you have a chance to resolve your legal issue in one visit rather than multiple trips to the courtroom and likely delays.
- Control: Mediation puts you and the opposing party in the driver’s seat for your case. Rather than the judge handing down his or her formal decision, parties negotiate and shape the terms of the final resolution. This allows for creative solutions that accommodate your unique circumstances, including those that foster your relationship with the other party going forward. In a family law dispute, you need a solution that works for everyone. Mediation allows you to do just that.
- Cost: Rather than the uncertain amount you’ll pay once a trial ends, mediation charges a simple hourly fee.
- Neutral Setting: The meeting takes place in an agreed-upon mediator’s office. Neither party gets a “home turf advantage”.
What are the effects?
The mediator drafts an agreement for both parties’ approval. Each party’s attorney then memorializes this into a court order to be filed with the court. At that point, the case is resolved and the agreement can be enforced in the future, if necessary. Essentially, mediation finalizes the case but requires no court appearance. Each party achieves the same goal: resolving conflict without a lengthy trial or considerable expense.
To become a mediator requires special nominations, training, and continuing education to keep skills sharp. Particularly in family law, Oklahoma legislators maintain rigorous standards for mediators to ensure only the most qualified take on the role of neutral problem solver.
How Do I Prepare?
Either accompanied by an attorney or attending unrepresented, your ability to participate is key to success. Your mediator explains the process before beginning the official session, but understanding the procedure and your role expedites the process. As an educational tool, familiarize yourself with Rules for Family Mediations. Some additional tips are as follows:
· Bring all relevant documents to mediation, including legal pleading and former court orders in place, receipts for disputed expenditures, communications about the dispute (electronic or otherwise), and any other information possibly relevant to the issues at stake.
· Write a summary of your legal concerns and outcomes you would like to see.
· List any questions you might have, but remember: your mediator cannot give legal advice—only explain the process.
· Create a priority list: where will you “stick to your guns” and where will you be more flexible on the outcome?
Ultimately, mediation offers a way to achieve the legal outcome you want while saving time and money, and avoiding unnecessary stress. If you are ready to resolve your legal issue, please contact us for an initial consult. Our attorneys specializing in mediation possess the experience and proven results to move you toward the peace of mind and results you seek.