In my last post I mentioned the Family Service Office of the Probate Court. That is the department which is tasked with getting litigants to settle their cases. Most cases do settle, which is a good thing as the system would otherwise be totally overwhelmed. It is also a good thing for the parties, as an agreement in which you have had some say is generally better than one which is imposed on you.
Even if it is costly to get there, an agreement is less expensive than trying your case and it has a better chance of being final as well. One of the best ways in terms of cost and civility to reach an agreement is through mediation. This is what the Family Service Officers do and here is a good explanation of non Court mandated mediation from Partner Robin Lynch Nardone who has extensive experience in family law mediation:
Resolution of a divorce or other family law matter without extensive litigation in the court is possible. Mediation is a voluntary process that invites people to come to agreement through informed negotiation with the assistance of a neutral third party. Mediation gives the parties the opportunity to discuss the issues between them (be it division of property, custody of children, alimony, child support or any number of other family law matters), clear up misunderstandings, determine their underlying interests or concerns, find areas of agreement and, ultimately, to reduce their agreement to a written settlement document. Mediation is particularly useful in the divorce and family law arena, as it provides spouses with control at a time when their lives might otherwise feel out of control. Parties come together to make decisions that impact significantly on themselves and their children, rather than leaving the decision making to a judge who sees hundreds of litigants every week and is likely to make decisions in a cookie-cutter fashion. It is often said that people are more likely to comply with the terms of a negotiated settlement than with a judgment imposed on them by a Judge. Further, when there are children involved, it is the parents who have raised those children who are in the best position to determine the parenting schedule that will suit the personalities and needs of the children going forward. Ending a marriage or making changes after a divorce can be difficult, but a war need not be waged in the courthouse, when honesty and cooperation is all that mediation requires.