In the late 90’s courts starting using mediation more and more to help parties fashion their own solutions to their cases and to lighten the amount of cases taken to trial. Whether or not you have a civil or domestic case mediation allows you to be in charge of your case and it’s outcome.
So what is mediation exactly? It is when two parties (Plaintiffs and Defendants/ Petitioner and Respondent) sit down with a neutral person who is not a part of their case nor interested in the outcome of their case. Where there are protection orders (also known as restraining orders) in place, mediation can still occur with the parties in separate rooms and agreements as to who gets to leave first, etc.
The process is confidential, unless there is information that would normally be required and exchanged between the parties as part of the case. Part of that confidentiality is that a mediator cannot be called into court to testify about the mediation session or things either party did during mediation. Mediators cannot give you legal advice and they are usually not licensed attorneys.
Mediators work to fashion between the parties a compromise. The mediator talks to each side and finds out what their ultimate desires are with regard to their case. Everyone has a wish list or what they really want the court to do for them. Mediators take those wish lists and talk to the parties to craft compromises which still meet their desires and needs as much as possible.
During mediation parties can more candidly exchange facts and figures to support why they want something. Sitting down with a neutral person to hash out the differences is sometimes the best way for each party to understand the how and why of the other party. It can lead to greater communication and understanding in divorce and custody cases.
One of the best attributes about mediation is that it allows the parties to “control their destiny” in a way that going to trial or hearing does not. Going to court can be costly and there is never a guaranteed outcome to any case. By going to trial or hearing you are giving control of the outcome to a person who does not know you, the other side, or any other individuals who may be effected by the judge or magistrate’s decision. There is a limited amount of time to present why you are there and what you want. Outcomes are entirely dependent on how that court interprets the law and what it sees in the case that is presented. Generally most people are not completely happy with the decisions of the court whether they are on the “winning” side or not. With mediation there is give and take and a chance to craft a solution that both parties can live with ultimately.
In Colorado there are a number of options for mediation. The most utilized option is the Office of Dispute Resolution ( also known as “ODR”) which operates under the Colorado court system. It is available in every county and they have a variety of mediators skilled in various different parts of the law. ODR mediation rates are very affordable usually $60/person/hour. There is also available a sliding scale or other relief if you cannot afford the costs of mediation. The majority of mediation done by ODR occur in the courthouses across the state.
There are also private mediators whose prices range from $70 – $500 per hour per person. Many of these mediators are also worth it depending on the type of case and the mediator’s expertise. In high conflict divorce cases where there are lots of assets to be divided the higher priced mediators can be more skilled in communicating the advantages and disadvantages to the parties. Going to mediation can save you hundreds to thousands of dollars in legal fees. Depending on the facts of the case, an attorney can spend two to sixteen hours preparing for court. That is in addition to going to court to try the case. There are also costs for experts, exhibit copies, printing, mileage and parking among other expenses to consider. Reaching an agreement in mediation allows you to have control over the outcome and over your financial output.
Written by June F. Bourrillion, Esq. for http://www.rkymtnlaw.com