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The Role of Mediation in Family Law Disputes

by | Jul 1, 2023

Going through a divorce or deciding on child custody strains both relationships and finances. Mediation helps families communicate needs, find reasonable compromises, and avoid draining legal battles. It provides a voluntary, non-adversarial process for resolving family law disputes. The affordable, fast, and private process empowers shared control over positive solutions.

At VHD Law, our compassionate mediators have decades of experience in mediation. We are here to help Wisconsin families mediate amicable transitions during challenging times.

What Is Mediation?

A good way to understand mediation is to compare it to litigation. Litigation is an adversarial process where a judge makes decisions for the parties involved. In contrast, mediation is a voluntary and confidential process.

Disputing parties work with a qualified, neutral mediator (the mediation lawyer.) The goal is to reach agreements rather than having a judge impose a ruling. In short, mediators facilitate positive discussions and negotiations.

Family law issues well-suited for mediation include:


Mediation enables divorcing spouses to work out agreements. These can be related to finances, assets, support, and other separation details. It helps avoid a contentious legal battle.

Child Custody

Mediation helps parents develop custody schedules focused on children’s best interests—like maximizing time with both fit parents.

Parenting Plans

Through mediation, parents can create post-divorce parenting plans. These can cover details like visitation, holidays, decision-making, and more. The goal is to maintain healthy relationships and stability.

Other Family Legal Matters

Other sensitive issues also lend well to mediation’s confidential conflict resolution process. These include things like elder guardianship, inheritance disputes, child support amounts, and more. 

Step By Step: How Mediation Unfolds

  1. The mediator establishes ground rules enforcing respectful conduct. Attorneys like VHD Law’s legal team pledge constructive participation.
  2. Parties describe viewpoints, priorities, and needs. The mediator summarizes back what they heard to ensure mutual understanding.
  3. Common ground is outlined as a starting point aligned with any children’s emotional wellbeing.
  4. Various compromises and solutions are explored to bridge disagreements as best as possible. Lots of cooperative back-and-forth conversation occurs until a resolution takes shape.
  5. Concrete decisions balance each person’s rights and reasonable needs into mutually acceptable outcomes. Legally binding agreements can be drafted if required.
  6. Mediation attorneys formalize mediated agreements. These become enforceable court orders when necessary.

Why Mediation is Often Preferable to Litigation

Compared to courtroom litigation, mediation’s advantages include:

Lower Costs

Mediation saves money in three key ways. First, settlements avoid expensive attorney fees and court costs of litigation. Hourly billing adds up fast. Second, mediation sessions themselves run smoother without rivalry between opposing counsels. Third, self-guided compromised outcomes aligned with your priorities are simply more efficient. 

Privacy Protection

Litigation creates public records accessible to anyone with basic online search skills. The messy details of your disputed divorce, family arguments over money. Even issues with your children’s behavior can end up posted online permanently. However, mediation discussions remain 100% confidential by law under attorney-client privilege. This allows everyone to open up honestly without worrying about scrutiny or gossip spreading later.

Greater Control

Judges can only rule based on the limited snapshots of your family situation presented formally in court. But complex modern families don’t fit neatly into standard formats. Mediation puts you in the driver’s seat, shaping solutions around your family’s unique needs and priorities. And agreeing to compromises feels far better than having terms forced on you by a judge’s single ruling.

Preserving Relationships

Court battles breed resentment between family members. They involve heated legal allegations, exaggerated claims, and constant opposition for advantage. But mediation defuses conflict through cooperation, acknowledges nuance, and finds common ground. 

When children are involved, minimizing lasting damage to co-parent bonds carries tremendous value.

In most family law disputes, mediation facilitates workable compromises all can embrace. The skilled team at VHD Law has helped many families transition smoothly this way. The key is participating in an honest and open manner. 

Limitations and Challenges of Mediation

There’s no denying that mediation yields positive results in most cases. However, it does have inherent limitations and situations where it may not be the optimal choice:

Mediation Relies on Good Faith Negotiation

There are never any guaranteed outcomes in mediation. It only works when all parties are willing to openly negotiate compromises in good faith. If anyone stonewalls the process or refuses to make any concessions, mediation could wind up at an impasse. In that case, you would be unable to finalize agreements. Traditional litigation led by an attorney may better serve disputes with an uncooperative party.

Power Imbalances Can Derail Mediation

Vast differences in personal power between disputing parties are another issue. This power imbalance may inhibit free expression by the less dominant side. If one party intimidates the other or leverages sensitive information, the playing field needs leveling. Experienced counsel from VHD Law can step in to protect vulnerable parties.

Getting Ready

Before mediation:

  • Get clear on your priorities. What matters most financially or for the kids’ wellbeing? Gather relevant documentation, too.
  • Write down your main goals, options, and questions to bring.
  • Talk to loved ones, mediation lawyers like VHD, and financial pros. Understand your rights and obligations.
  • Most importantly, enter discussions willing to find reasonable compromises. Keep kids’ emotional needs front and center when discussing custody or parenting time details.

With VHD Law behind you, mediation can preserve relationships despite family transitions. The process puts you in the driver’s seat, working towards mutual agreement rather than allowing a judge to impose orders. Consider mediation for making progress during divorce or resolving other family legal situations.

Need Help With a Family Dispute?

If you’re facing a family legal issue like divorce or deciding child custody, consider mediation. The process is faster, cheaper, and preserves relationships better than fighting in court.

Is mediation right for you? Reach out to the experts at VHD Law. Our mediation attorneys can review your case details and priorities. We can advise if mediation looks suitable or if going to court makes more sense.Whatever route fits best, VHD Law delivers compassionate legal guidance tailored to your family’s needs. Contact us today to start moving forward with greater confidence and clarity.

Written by Vanden Heuvel & Dineen, S.C.

Family Law

24 Hour Access

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