The vast majority of divorces, child custody cases, and other family law cases do not reach trial. In most cases, agreements are reached between the parties prior to trial. The most common form of settlement is through mediation.
Mediation is where a neutral third party works with the parties and through negotiations back and forth helps promote settlement. A mediator’s job is to encourage communication and help present ideas and solutions that the parties are willing to agree to.
Most cases that go through mediation successfully reach settlement. Because mediation can help spouses and parties avoid trials, most courts will require that parties go to mediation before trial.
If the parties do reach an agreement they can execute a written “mediated settlement agreement.” If the mediated settlement agreement includes certain language and features, then the agreement is binding upon the parties.
A properly executed settlement agreement is binding immediately and even the court has limited power to deny the agreement. A court may only review whether the agreement is illegal or one party entered into it because of fraud, duress, or other dishonest reasons. If no such reason is evident then a party is entitled to judgment on that agreement.
Mediation can be a great tool to reach a conclusion in a divorce or custody case. Mediation can help craft a custom solution. A solution that works with each individual party’s particular situation, in a way that might not be possible in a trial. Mediation can also help the parties save the significant time and money required to proceed to trial.