Are You Legally Required to Abide by Mediation Decisions?
More and more divorcing couples are choosing to get mediation instead of arguing in court. If you have tried or are considering trying mediation, it’s helpful to know just how legally binding the process is. Here is what you need to know about whether or not divorce mediation is legally binding.
Are You Legally Required to Get Mediation?
In most cases, mediation is entirely optional. People usually decide to get it when they want to divorce and keep things as amicable as possible. However, usually, you have the right to forego mediation if you don’t think it will work for your situation.
There are a few exceptions to this rule though. The court can order a couple to enter mediation if they think that would benefit the family. This is a special type of mediation called court-ordered mediation. If you have court-ordered mediation, you are legally bound to show up for your mediation sessions. You don’t necessarily have to be talkative during the session, but if you skip it, you could be found in contempt of the court.
Another reason you might be legally bound to go through the mediation process is if you signed a prenup saying you would. Many prenuptial agreements include a clause that says you have to go into mediation if you want to end the marriage. Skipping mediation at this point could result in civil lawsuits or other penalties.
Do You Have to Follow the Mediator’s Recommendations?
During your mediation session, the mediator will hear both sides of the story. You and your ex can get a mediation lawyer to present your case and explain the solution you want. After hearing all the facts, your mediator might make suggestions for how you should proceed.
Keep in mind that the mediator is not a judge. What they say is not a final ruling that you are legally bound to follow. Instead, the mediator is just there to guide the discussion in a proactive manner. Whether or not you choose to follow any suggestions from the mediator is up to you.
Which Mediation Documents Are Actually Legally Binding?
The process of just talking with a mediator is not legally binding. However, usually, the whole point of mediation is for you and your ex to create a legal document that you both agree on. Depending on your circumstances, your mediation attorney might prepare documents like child custody arrangements, asset transfer agreements, or child support schedules.
Unless your mediation is court-ordered, you have the option of walking away without signing any documents. It’s very important to only sign legal agreements in mediation if you agree with them. Once you sign them, they are just as legally binding as any child custody or asset division settlement your divorce lawyer helps you get in court.
What Should You Do If You’re Not Happy With Your Mediation Outcome?
You cannot just shrug and quit paying your child custody because you sorted it out in mediation instead of in court. However, that doesn’t mean you are stuck with your mediation agreement forever. Just like any other legal agreement, you might have options to contest or appeal the decision.
In some cases, you can argue that the mediation contract is not valid due to irregularities such as being signed under duress. Mediation usually isn’t recommended for couples dealing with domestic violence, because one can intimidate the other into signing something unfair. Another option for changing your agreement is petitioning the court for an adjustment. Since some agreements, like child support, are ongoing, you can alter them when circumstances drastically change. This means that things like getting a new job or moving may let you make some changes to your mediation agreement.
If you’re considering mediation, the Law Office of Joanne Kleiner is here to help. We are happy to offer mediation and explain how it works. And if you’re unsatisfied with a previously mediated agreement, our divorce lawyer team can help you explore your options further. Call our Jenkintown office at 215-886-1266 or fill out our online contact form to learn more.