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Understanding Mediation in Family Law

What is Mediation?

Mediation is a method of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) often used in family law to facilitate agreement between the parties without going to court. Mediation is a dynamic, structured, interactive process where an impartial third party assists the disputing parties in resolving conflict through the use of specialized communication and negotiation techniques.

The Role of the Mediator

In mediation, the disputing parties work with a neutral third party, the mediator, to resolve their disputes. The mediator facilitates the resolution of the parties' disputes by supervising the exchange of information and the bargaining process. The mediator helps the parties find common ground and deal with unrealistic expectations. He or she may also offer creative solutions and assist in drafting a final settlement. The role of the mediator is to interpret concerns, relay information between the parties, frame issues, and define the problems.

Protection of Information in Mediation

Evidence Rule 408 protects information provided in negotiations from being used against a party in subsequent court proceedings. The purpose of this rule is to encourage parties to have freedom of communication in negotiation and offers to compromise. This means, parties do not need to worry about an offer they provided during mediation being used against them in court later.

Distinguishing Mediation from Arbitration

Unlike arbitration, which is a process of ADR somewhat similar to trial, mediation does not involve decision making by the neutral third party. ADR procedures can be initiated by the parties or may be compelled by the court.

Local Family Law Rule (LFLR) 16

In King County, Local Family Law Rule (LFLR) 16 requires all family law cases to participate in ADR no later than 30 days prior to trial unless your case involves domestic violence, or child support only modifications. 

Submission of Materials for Mediation

LFLR 16 requires parties to submit materials to the mediator no later than two working days before the day of mediation. You also provide a copy to the opposing counsel or opposing party. These documents do not get filed with the court. These documents include a mediation statement, financial documents, and proposed orders.

Components of the Mediation Statement

The Mediation Statement will lay out your perspective of the facts in the case and will indicate your position on all of the issues in your case corresponding with your Proposed Orders, Asset and Debt Spreadsheet and Financial Declaration. It will explain and justify the things you are asking for in your Proposed Orders.

The outline of your Mediation Statement is as follows:

  1. Background – This section provides background information, context and relevant information related to your case. How you met your spouse, when you married, when your children were born. Your parenting history and employment history during the marriage. When you separated and why. What has happened since you separated. What court action there has been thus far, if any, etc.
  2. Parenting – This section provides relevant information regarding all parenting issues. It will cover the parties parenting history. What parenting issues there are to solve for and what your proposal is in regard to those issues.
  3. Child Support – This section provides all relevant information regarding child support. It will explain the income and expenses of each party, the expenses of the children and any other relevant financial information. It will also provide your proposals regarding who should pay child support and in what amount.
  4. Property Division – This section outlines all relevant information regarding property and liabilities owned by each party. It will explain your perspective on what the value of the property is, whether it is separate or community and how it should be divided.
  5. Spousal Support – This section discusses relevant information regarding the income and the expenses of each party and whether one party has the need for financial support and the other has the ability to pay.

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