Mediation Attorneys Serving Families in Southeast Michigan

Divorce can be painful. A common misperception is that, “having my day in court will fix everything.” Unfortunately, having your day in court is seldom as satisfying as you had hoped and comes with high financial costs and hidden costs such as anxiety, inability to focus on other aspects of life (including your children and work), and mood changes that can spill over onto your children. Even though you may not discuss the divorce with your children, they often sense when you are stressed because of it.

These are some reasons most divorces in Michigan settle before they get to trial. One way to achieve a divorce settlement that works is to participate in divorce mediation.

How Divorce Mediation Works

In divorce mediation, you and your spouse meet with an impartial, neutral mediator who has received extensive training in helping people resolve family disputes. The mediator is not a judge; she facilitates communication and resolution. Unlike with arbitration, a mediator does not decide for you, although some mediators will make informal, confidential recommendations if requested by both parties.

There are different styles of mediation, including facilitative (the mediator does not weigh in on issues, but proposes options as needed), and evaluative (the mediator freely gives his thoughts on the most appropriate options). Mediation comes in different stages, too.

Early stage mediation can occur before a party files papers with the court. This is helpful because once a judge is selected when papers are filed, attorneys can make better predictions on the outcome of the case if it goes to trial. Once outcomes are predictable, fewer options are viable. Early stage mediation is the preferred stage of mediation amongst the attorneys at NSSSB, whenever possible.

Mid-stage mediation occurs after filing, but before trial. Many attorneys prefer mid-stage mediation because they like to conduct formal discovery, the process of parties exchanging information about evidence and witnesses in the pending court case, before mediating. Late-stage mediation occurs on the eve of trial, and is typically unsuccessful because parties are too entrenched in their positions by then.

The mediator helps you and your spouse identify issues that need to be resolved for you to settle your divorce. Those issues might include property division, spousal support, or child custody and parenting time. The mediator creates a framework for discussion of the issues and helps keep you on track, encouraging respectful communication and “win-win” solutions.

Once you and your spouse have resolved the issues in your divorce, the mediator may prepare an agreement for your signature or provide your attorney or your spouse’s attorney with a summary of agreed-upon terms so that one of the attorneys may prepare the agreement. (If your mediator is not a licensed attorney in Michigan, they should not be preparing a formal settlement agreement that you and your spouse sign because that is practicing contract law and requires a law degree).

This settlement agreement will form the foundation of your divorce judgment, which you and your spouse will abide by. You need not have an attorney present during mediation sessions, but you and your spouse may have your attorneys with you if you wish. To minimize costs, our clients sometimes attend mediation without us and then use us as “coaches” to help get them through the process. Never sign anything in mediation without having your attorney review it first!

Family mediation is not just for divorce. It is also helpful in custody and parenting matters, post-judgment modification of parenting time and move-away issues, and for families struggling to make decisions regarding an older family member or a dispute over a probate estate.

Advantages of Divorce Mediation in Michigan

Mediation offers many benefits, especially for couples who share children and will need to continue working together after their divorce:

  • Divorce mediation focuses on the future. Instead of getting bogged down in past wrongs, mediation allows you to look forward.
  • Mediation provides a model for effective, respectful communication, which creates a foundation for productive future interactions with your former spouse/co-parent.
  • Mediation sessions proceed at a pace and a time that work for you, rather than on the court’s schedule.
  • You and your spouse can speak about your needs and concerns in a way a trial in court rarely permits.
  • Mediation offers you and your spouse the flexibility to design creative solutions that work for your unique family, and which a judge might not have ordered.
  • Because you and your spouse create the agreement (rather than having it imposed upon you), you are more likely to abide by it—which means you are less likely to have to go back to court after your divorce to enforce the agreement.
  • Although you and your spouse have ownership of the agreement, you have the support and guidance of your mediator, who helps you make informed decisions in an atmosphere of respect.
  • Unlike court proceedings, mediation is private.
  • Mediation is usually faster than a court trial, and typically costs less.

Ironically, mediation offers you a greater opportunity to express yourself and to be heard than “having your day in court,” and usually at a lower financial and emotional cost.

Domestic Violence and Mediation

When you have experienced domestic violence or been accused of battering, mediation may not seem like a viable option. However, with more and more mediations being conducted via Zoom in breakout rooms, it is more feasible than ever to resolve matters involving domestic violence through mediation.

The parties never have to see one another, and the attorneys can help ensure that threatening messages are not ferried inadvertently by the mediator. As compared to the trauma of seeing your batterer in court during a trial, or fearing that you will be falsely accused of domestic violence by having to appear in person with your spouse, virtual mediation can be a valuable dispute resolution tool.

How We Help with Family Mediation

Our attorneys are leaders in using alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation, in Michigan family law matters. They will help families resolve disputes in a respectful and dignified manner, and they have extensive experience in family mediation or elder mediation.

We are available to help with mediation in two capacities: as a neutral mediator, or as an attorney representing you in a matter before a mediator.

While you do not have to have an attorney representing you in mediation, it is often helpful to have the guidance of an attorney who is deeply familiar with the process. This is especially true in certain circumstances, such as when there are considerable assets, children with special needs, or a significant power imbalance between spouses.

If you have questions about divorce mediation or family dispute resolution in Michigan, please contact us to learn more about how we can help.