Mediation FAQ

Divorce is a time-consuming and sometimes contentious process. It can be emotionally and fiscally draining on both parties and unfortunately proceedings can last for months, and in some cases years. Thankfully, there is an option for those who wish to settle their issues instead of going to trial. They can choose to pursue Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) in an effort to reach an agreement that suits both parties.

Mediation and arbitration are two different types of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) divorcing couples can choose to pursue if they don’t wish to go to trial. The two ADR types are similar as they both use a neutral third-party to navigate the process, but there are differences. To find answers to your frequently asked questions about mediation and arbitration under Washington law, please review the sections below.

Washington Divorce Mediation Attorney | Alternative Dispute Resolution FAQ

Shana Thompson is not only an experienced and talented family law attorney with over 20 years of experience, but she also offers mediation services. If you’re in need of mediation for a family law matter, contact Law Offices of Shana E. Thompson to learn your more about Ms. Thompson’s mediation practices and process. She has assisted many couples and families move past contentious and complicated family law disputes by providing fair and valuable guidance.

Call Law Offices of Shana E. Thompson today to speak to Shana Thompson at (206) 712-2756. She assists families by providing mediation services throughout King County and Snohomish County, Washington.

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What Does a Mediator Do?

Mediation is a type of non-binding, confidential Alternative Dispute Resolution where an impartial and certified professional assists all parties in coming to an agreement on an issue. A successful mediator is unbiased and has a background in family law and divorce issues. It’s important you have a mediator who is well-informed while you discuss very important dissolution matters such as property division and parenting plans.

Mediators do not have the power to impose a decision, all they can do is help the parties find a solution agreeable for everyone. They should give each party a chance to be heard and remain impartial to any person’s interests and feelings. They shouldn’t impart legal advice or ever “take a side” during mediation sessions. In addition, mediators will only express their personal opinion on a matter if each party inquires for it.

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How Does Mediation Work in Washington State?

Mediation is a pretty straight forward process and, depending on the circumstances, you may be able to formulate an agreeable settlement in one or two sessions. The process isn’t incredibly formal.  For most mediations, the parties can appear via Zoom.  The parties may also come to the mediator’s office where they will be put in separate conference rooms and the mediator goes between the two rooms, bringing offers back and forth, which is known as shuttle mediation.   The mediator will go through every dissolution matter that needs to be resolved. The space should be safe for both you and your former spouse to speak their mind. You and/or your spouse can also bring their attorney as well if they’d like to involve them in the mediation.

During sessions, the mediator will help you and your ex-spouse agree on a solution for various divorce-related issues. Some of these include, but are not limited to:

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Is It Better to Mediate or Go to Court?

The decision on whether to go to trial ultimately will depend on the willingness of either party to compromise. Some recently separated couples have an incredibly difficult time negotiating in mediation as they are simply unwilling to budge on certain issues. The point of mediation is to dissect the issue and find an agreeable solution for everyone, if possible.

So, if you think you and your former spouse are too “stuck” to go to mediation, think again. Many recently separated couples are able to reach an agreement through mediation despite the fact both parties have strong opinions on what should happen. In King County, parties are required to mediate prior to going to trial, so many choose to mediate early in a case and even more than once to avoid the expense of trial. If you choose mediation, it’s ultimately the cheaper option than going to trial. Listed below are some other benefits for choosing mediation over trial.

  • Mediation emphasizes communication and finding a solution that helps everyone
  • You can stop mediation sessions at any time and have control ultimately over whether they should continue or not
  • Statistics indicate families who choose mediation over trial are much happier in the long run and face less emotional stress
  • Mediation allows the parties to find an agreement without bringing their children to court or through the trials and tribulations of trial
  • It can overall improve family dynamics and communication
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Is Mediation Mandatory in Washington?

The answer will depend on where your residence is. Washington State technically doesn’t require divorcing couples to attend mediation like some other states. It does expressly encourage it, but if you choose not to you can still end the marriage. However, certain counties in Washington have local rules mandating mediation prior to trial for the majority of family law matters.

King County Local Family Law Rules 16(a) states almost all family law cases are subject to mediation or arbitration before heading to trial. The only matters that this doesn’t apply to is child support modification or relocation of a child.

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What is the Primary Weakness of Mediation?

The primary weakness of mediation is that there is not the process does not promise an outcome. While most mediation sessions will result in an agreement, that doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed one. The mediator has no advisory or determinative role when it comes to the outcome of the mediation. All they can do is provide guidance in an effort to guide the parties to an agreeable solution.

It’s also important to remember mediation does not have any established rules. There are some guidelines for institutional mediation, but for divorce there is no established structure. The reason for this is the mediator is a facilitator and not an adjudicator.

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What Does Arbitration Work in Washington State?

The other type of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is referred to as arbitration. Arbitration also involves a neutral third party whose role is to guide both parties towards a decision or an award. Unlike going to trial, the arbitrator does not have to be a judge or court commissioner, it can be any private attorney the divorcing couple chooses.

The outcome of arbitration will heavily depend on if you choose to pursue a binding arbitration. A binding arbitration is when both parties agree to going through the process and have the arbitrator decide and make the final resolution of the issues. When you choose a binding arbitration, you cannot appeal the outcome. A mandatory arbitration is when the court forces the divorcing couple to arbitrate. This type of arbitration is much less common than binding arbitration.

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Additional Resources

Types of ADR | Washington Courts– Visit the official website of the Washington Courts to learn more about mediation and arbitration. Access the site to read more in detail about the different types of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) available in Washington.

Civil Rules for Mediation and Arbitration
 – Visit the official website for the Western District of Washington to look at the civil rules for the area. Access the site to learn more about the mediation mandate for family law matters for King County and Snohomish County, WA.

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Seattle Mediation and Arbitration Attorney | Washington

If you’re thinking of mediation for your divorce or other family law matter, call Law Offices of Shana E. Thompson. Shana Thompson has practiced as a family law attorney for over a decade and has an in-depth understanding of laws pertaining to dissolution. She has helped many divorcing couples find common ground so they can move forward with their lives and protect their interests.

Call Law Offices of Shana E. Thompson today at (206) 712-2756 to set up your first consultation.

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