In mediation, a couple works with a mediator who helps them discuss and negotiate the issues arising from the separation. Often in mediation (particularly in relation to parenting issues), the spouses work directly with the mediator without lawyers present. If necessary, the lawyers may be involved in the mediation sessions. Regardless of whether lawyers are present at the session, each spouse needs to have his or her own lawyer to receive independent legal advice. It is best to obtain independent legal advice early on in the mediation process so as to understand the legal issues and the implications of what will be discussed. Mediation allows for the integrated involvement of financial professionals and parenting professionals. If a negotiated settlement on all issues is not achieved, the case may proceed to Arbitration (with the agreement of the couple) or to court.
Arbitration is similar to court/litigation except that the person making the decision, the arbitrator, is appointed by the couple. The arbitrator is usually an experienced family law lawyer. The ruling of an arbitrator is binding. Sometimes the couple appoint as their mediator a person who will ultimately arbitrate any issues that remain unresolved after mediation.
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Court/Litigation or Arbitration
When a couple cannot reach agreement on some or all of the issues, it may be necessary to have a judge or arbitrator decide.