By: Jaclyn Zembrodt Taylor, Law Clerk for Melissa Doss Law
February 1, 2019
When a person seeks legal counsel from an attorney, they often see pictures of fancy courtrooms and high-pressure hearings presided over by a strict judge. While this may not bother some people, most are nervous at the thought of going to court. Fortunately, Kentucky law allows for family law attorneys within the state to offer participation in mediation to their clients. In many cases, a judge may even order the parties to attempt mediation before hearing the issues in court.
What is mediation? Mediation is an informal legal process in which a neutral third party facilitates an agreement or partial agreement between two or more parties that are currently involved in a legal dispute in a non-adversarial setting. The neutral third party, otherwise known as the mediator, attempts to lead the parties to a compromise that is mutually beneficial. The process is designed to allow the incorporation of personalized factors that are unique to each case and design a creative solution to the parties’ issues that wouldn’t necessarily be possible for a court to order. After the parties come to an agreement, they sign an agreement outlining the specific solutions which becomes an enforceable court order.
Why is mediation important in family law cases? The short answer is that, if successful, mediation provides a more sophisticated, specific, and quick solution to a family law issue. Mediation dates are easier to obtain than a hearing date because there are multiple certified mediators in your county. Also, mediation allows for issues to be resolved in ways that take into account important factors that a judge wouldn’t necessarily address due to time constraints and relevance. For example, when coming up with a parenting schedule for two parents who share joint custody over a child, there are several factors to consider. One parent may have employment that requires him or her to work odd hours or holidays. These parents want and need a more flexible parenting schedule than the court typically orders. A parent may celebrate the Christmas holiday every year on Christmas Eve and would like a schedule that allows the child to be there every year. Courts like to rotate holidays when this may not be the best option for all parties involved. In mediation, these factors may be considered when comprising the parenting and holiday schedules to fit the needs of both parents. However, in court, a judge will not have the time or background information to consider these factors and may order a less convenient schedule that makes the parents’ lives more chaotic. In a chaotic parenting schedule, the child often feels the brunt of being shuffled back and forth too often or at odd times.
In the end, the issues presented in family law cases are unique compared to the rest of the legal world. A unique issue calls for a unique solution. Mediation allows the parties in a family law case to come up with a unique solution that best fits the needs of everyone involved.