By Demetria C. Howard-Watkins, Associate Attorney, Jackson Law Group
Today is April 26, 2019. If you are a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you are most likely happily purchasing tickets for Avengers: Endgame, a three hour finale concluding a storyline that spanned throughout 22 blockbuster movies beginning in 2008 with Iron Man starring Robert Downey, Jr.
But neither the Avengers Premiere nor my neverending crush on Robert Downey, Jr are the focus of this blog post. We need to hone in on the idea of an endgame and what that means in family law litigation. Simply: the endgame in Family Law is a contested bench trial or trial by jury. And let me tell you, it can be an emotionally and financially taxing affair that can leave you and your loved ones irreparably harmed for the long term.
In spite of what you see in movies or on television, you can finish up the nastiness of litigation with a final play before a wallet busting trial: you have opportunities throughout the litigation process to settle your case through a formal mediation.
Folks, we mediate every single day: we contain chaos by forcing our children to cooperate, we bypass all sorts of landmines on our jobs by working with clients and customers to keep them happy. For ourselves or for others, we negotiate and ultimately sacrifice something meaningful to ourselves for the greater good.
Mediation within family law matters is no different.
As a process under the banner of Alternative Dispute Resolution, mediation is a scheduled affair whereby both sides come together for either half a day or a full day to hash out differences and reach an agreement. The cost of the mediator is divided equally between the parties, unless otherwise agreed.
The ringleader of this affair is a certified Mediator. Over the course of the mediation, he or she will lead the charge objectively and help you and the other side meet each other in the middle. They do not dispense legal advice, they do not take sides. They focus on getting you and the other side to agree on the terms that will have lasting impact. Those terms are finalized in a binding, legally enforceable Mediated Settlement Agreement (MSA) that is filed with the Court and BAM(!), the case is over. You can get on with life once again.
Before you dig in your heels and look ahead to a contentious, draining trial as your endgame, strongly consider a formal mediation. Years from now, when you reflect on your case, you want to know that you did everything you could do to end things peacefully.
Give a formal mediation a shot!
Demetria Howard-Watkins, esq. – Certified Family Law Mediator