Family Law Mediation Services in Washington
Trusted and Resourceful Mediation Professionals
Mediation is a powerful tool that allows you to maintain control over the process and the outcome of your divorce or other family law dispute. McKinley Irvin offers flexible scheduling for mediations to accommodate parties with urgent needs.
McKinley Irvin family law mediators have a holistic knowledge of family conflicts and a deep understanding of the legal, financial, and emotional elements of divorce. Their extensive experience allows them to mediate cases that involve complex legal and financial issues.
Our mediators enjoy helping people assess their needs, priorities, and motivations, while providing the benefit of experience both as practicing family lawyers and mediators. They are dedicated to facilitating people toward an equitable, practical, and stable agreement that ultimately brings closure to litigation.
How Does Family Law Mediation Work?
Mediation enables parties to represent their individual interests while working toward a place of compromise. The goal of mediation is to reach a mutually beneficial settlement which is reduced to writing and may be presented to court in lieu of trial.
Mediation can take place at any stage in the litigation process (or prior to the litigation process) and any number of disputed issues can be addressed and resolved. It is common for parties to address a significant issue, such as temporary orders or a final parenting plan, in a stand-alone session and return at a later date to address the remaining issues. The entire process is cooperative and nothing is decided without consensus from both parties. Mediation is a safe and confidential atmosphere, in which nothing discussed can be used in court.
There are different ways to approach mediation. In “shuttle mediation," each party occupies a private meeting space (or Zoom room, if mediation is virtual) with his or her attorney. Both parties have the benefit of confidential discussions with their lawyers and any other professionals they wish to have present or consult with. The mediator is a neutral facilitator of negotiations, who engages in “shuttle diplomacy” by moving between rooms to guide the parties toward a workable settlement using creative and sensible solutions.
In contrast, parties may choose to have a joint mediation session. In this environment, both parties, their attorneys (if the parties are represented), and the mediator occupy one room. The mediator then guides a collaborative and respectful discussion to help the parties reach agreement. Joint sessions promote face-to-face cooperation and can help parties learn effective communication tools they can utilize moving forward.
For some parties, a mix of the two styles is a better fit. In the mediation process, sessions can be tailored to the individual needs and preferences of the parties to find the best path towards resolution.
What Are The Advantages Of Mediation?
Compared to traditional litigation, settling a divorce or family law dispute through mediation is:
- Flexible – Mediation can address one or more issues in dispute and can take place before and/or after a petition is filed with the court.
- Private – Mediation is conducted outside of court and off the record.
- Non-Adversarial – Both sides work cooperatively to determine the best result for everyone.
- Self-Directed – You maintain control of the process (not the court) and create your own solutions.
- Neutral – Your mediator is an experienced unbiased professional focused on facilitating a mutually agreeable resolution.
- Healthy – Mediation promotes better communication, stronger relationships, and improved parenting.
- Durable – Privately mediated agreements allow the parties to take ownership of the outcome thereby resulting in greater long-term satisfaction.
- Economical – Reaching a settlement outside of court can lower legal costs.
- Mandatory – Upon filing a petition with the court, parties are required to attempt alternative dispute resolution to resolve their case. Mediation fulfills that requirement.
If you are seeking a resolution of the issues at stake, mediation provides an excellent and cost-effective environment in which to formulate a practical and lasting arrangement that works for you and your family. This approach provides privacy and flexibility that you cannot get in court. By turning over the power to resolve your case to the court, you give up the ability to reach an agreement which takes into account your unique needs, goals, and values.
Types Of Disputes
Our mediators can guide you in resolving most family law disputes, including those pertaining to:
- Divorce and legal separation
- Temporary orders
- Child custody and child support
- Property division and allocation of assets and debts
- Spousal maintenance payments and duration
- Temporary and Final parenting plans
- Disputes regarding parental decision-making
- Relocation and parenting plan modifications
- Post-dissolution disputes, including final orders, modifications and support
- Disputes involving cohabitating couples and unmarried parents
Frequently Asked Questions
Who is mediation for?
Mediation is not only for divorcing couples – it be used to address and resolve any legal disputes between two parties. It is a particularly effective tool for high conflict matters where parties cannot effectively communicate. This is because mediators are neutrals with no personal stake in the outcome. They do not give legal advice or advocate for either party. As a neutral, the mediator is typically a legal professional who understands the law in the area of the controversy. This allows the mediator to productively focus the conversations and negotiations on the issues that matter, ultimately bringing about a resolution. It provides an opportunity for the parties to set their relationship conflicts aside and focus on removing the barriers to settlement.
Do we need to be represented by attorneys?
Mediation does not require parties be represented by attorneys, although we highly recommend it. The attorney represents the individual interests of his or her client, provides legal advice throughout the process, and reviews the final documents.
Is the agreement legally binding?
If the parties are able to reach an agreement which resolves one or more issues, the parties and their counsel can enter into a binding settlement agreement which with few exceptions will be accepted and enforced by the court.
What if we can’t reach an agreement?
If resolution is not reached, the parties have several options. They can agree to participate in another mediation or with a different mediator, they can agree to submit their disputes to an arbitrator to make a decision, or they can proceed to court, and the decisions will be made by a commissioner or a judge.
What is the difference between mediation and arbitration?
Some parties will determine that, even if they want to, they will not be able to reach an agreement with their spouse. If the matter cannot be resolved with the assistance of a mediator, the parties can agree to submit their disputes to an arbitrator. Arbitration is another form of alternative dispute resolution in which the parties agree to appoint an arbitrator to render a decision that is final and binding. In an arbitration, the arbitrator is an attorney acting as a decision maker who hears the positions of each side and makes a decision about the dispute.
Some people will choose a mix of mediation and arbitration. This may be agreed upon prior to a mediation session, but often occurs when the parties are in a mediation session and they can see it is not going to result in a full settlement, but they don’t want to lose the work they have done thus far with the mediator. In this case, parties can ask their mediator, who’s already familiar with the case, to act as a private arbitrator on the issues remaining. An attorney can help their client determine the pros and cons of switching gears and converting the neutral mediator into a decision-maker or appointing an arbitrator not associated with their mediation process.
What is the difference between mediation and collaborative law?
Divorce mediation is a cooperative process that is facilitated by a third-party mediator. Mediation does not require parties be represented by attorneys, although it is usually recommended. Mediation can happen at any point in the divorce process for any number of disputed issues.
In family law, collaborative divorce refers to a specific process where both parties agree—in a contract—that they will not use litigation to resolve their family law matter. The collaborative process is a client driven process where each party retains a collaboratively trained attorney and the parties with their collaborative attorneys work together, sometimes with the aid of other collaboratively trained experts, to reach a mutually agreed and sustainable agreement. If agreement cannot be reached and litigation is the only means of resolving the remaining disputes, the collaboratively trained lawyers must withdraw, and parties must start the divorce process over from the beginning with new counsel.
What does mediation cost?
Parties typically share the cost of the mediator’s time equally, which includes a modest amount of prep time and the actual time spent working with the parties at the mediation. Mediators charge by the hour and expect payment in full at the end of the mediation session. Parties often agree as part of the settlement terms to reallocate the mediation costs.
Call To Reserve A Mediation Session
Mediation dates are available on a first-come, first-serve basis and must be confirmed by our Client Services Department. For further information about scheduling a mediation in one of our offices, please call our Client Services Department at (206) 397-0399 or submit an online contact form.