Mediation and Arbitration*
* Schultz Family Law, LLC only provides mediation services to parties who are represented by attorneys. We are happy to refer you to other mediators in the area who will brilliantly assist you in reaching an amicable and fair resolution without attorneys.
When there is a dispute in a Maine family law or domestic relations case, the case doesn’t always go to court for immediate litigation and trial. Instead, Maine courts encourage (and sometimes order) alternative dispute resolution to help families settle their disputes without the need for a costly and time-consuming trial. If you have a family law dispute (whether divorcing, dividing assets and debts after a divorce, determining child support or custody, etc.), then two efficient and effective options you may have include mediation and arbitration.
The Judicial Branch of Maine was one of the early pioneers in providing mediation and arbitration services to state residents. In general, the goal of mediation and arbitration is to make the disputing parties come to a resolution without the need of a trial in court. The role of a mediator in many situations is to help ease communication between the parties while keeping the communication focused on the dispute. In a standard mediation, the mediator is impartial and doesn’t take sides, and the mediator may meet either with both parties together or privately.
After mediation, both parties typically enter the courtroom to speak with a judge. If the parties have reached agreements on all issues and disputes, they can show these resolutions to the judge for approval. Upon approval, the legal proceedings are finished and the judge will issue a court order.
As a private, informal affair, there are many benefits to mediation or arbitration. Just some of these benefits include:
- The parties involved control the outcome and how the dispute is settled. The parents (or disputing parties) get to decide what is best, as opposed to letting the court decide.
- This process allows both parties to resolve the case or dispute much faster than trial courts can. Through mediation, you can get an official court order without needing a contested hearing.
- This process can lower the costs associated with the court because the resolution occurs without a trial.
- Mediation benefits children. This process is known for reducing conflict and uncertainty.
Additionally, one of the most prominent aspects of mediation is the focus on negotiation, as opposed to arguing or litigation. Parties are encouraged to openly share their ideas and brainstorm settlement options. The process is confidential. What is said in mediation cannot be used as evidence in court. However, if the mediator learns about child abuse or neglect, or discovers that someone is in danger of physical harm, the mediator must report that information to authorities.
One of the main differences between mediation and arbitration is that mediation involves a neutral third party who has no power to impose a decision on either of the parties. The mediator in these situations is only supposed to facilitate resolution of disputes. In arbitration, the arbitrator or referee has been granted authority by the court to issue a binding decision.
In many types of cases, the court may order mandatory mediation or another form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) before the case may move to a contested hearing. For example, mediation is a requirement in most domestic relations cases, ranging from divorce issues to cases involving unmarried couples seeking a formal order defining their parental rights and responsibilities.