Mediation/arbitration (often referred to as Med/Arb) is a process in which the parties first attempt to resolve issues in mediation. If they are unable to reach a mediated agreement, the mediator will then become the arbitrator and make a decision on any unresolved issues. It is important that everyone understand in advance exactly what the process will be and how unresolved issues will be decided.
As of June 2015, I have reduced the volume of my practice and am no longer conducting mediations for couples where attorneys do not participate in the process. In addition, I am no longer accepting appointment as a mediator or arbitrator in the Dispute Resolution Provision of a Parenting Plan. I am still conducting Settlement Conferences and Arbitrations where both parties have attorney representation in the process
Mediation is a voluntary structured process whereby a qualified neutral third party assists the disputing couple in reaching a mutually agreeable and reasonable solution to the identified issues. The mediator’s role is not to provide counseling, therapy or legal advise but to facilitate the discussion, provide legal information, provide options and assist in defining and clarifying issues and examining and evaluating options. The mediator does not make a decision but assists the couple in reaching an agreement that best fits the couple’s particular circumstances and situation. Although not all mediations are successful, a successful mediation is generally cost effective, time efficient, and allows the couple to remain in control of the process, the issues and the solutions. The mediation process also provides an opportunity for open discussion between the parties of the options, ideas and solutions. Participants tend to be more satisfied with the results of a mediated agreement than a court imposed decision and there tends to be less re-litigation, particularly around parenting issues.
Arbitration is a process in which the parties submit the issue(s) to a mutually agreed upon neutral third party who makes a decision on each issue. Arbitration may be binding or non-binding depending on the agreement of the parties. If the parties select non-binding arbitration, then the decision of the arbitrator is subject to review by appeal to the Superior Court. In an arbitration proceeding a party may appear with or without legal counsel. One of the purposes of arbitration is to obtain an expedited hearing and decision without all of the cost or time associated with going to court. The arbitration process also allows the parties to select a qualified arbitrator who can become familiar with the parties rather than the random assignment of cases in Superior Court.
Click here to download a PDF of the Arbitration Agreement.
Click here to download a PDF of the Rules and Procedures for Arbitration of Parenting Plans.
A settlement conference is a mediation process in which the parties attend with their attorneys (if they are represented). The parties and their attorneys are generally in separate rooms. I convey offers between the parties, provide the parties with my view as to the strengths and weaknesses of their case and provide my view as to the likely outcome at trial. The parties generally submit written material in advance. Unlike a mediation with the parties only, the sessions are generally scheduled for longer periods of time (4-8 hours) so as to enable the opportunity to resolve all the issues in one session. A binding written record of the agreement is signed at the end of the session.
King County Superior Court mandatory forms for family law may be found at http://www.kingcounty.gov/courts/scforms.aspx
Washington State mandatory forms for family law can be found at http://www.courts.wa.gov/forms/list.cfm
Settlement Conference Agreement
Click here to download a PDF of the Agreement for Mediation/Settlement Conference.