Oregon courts are currently facing a unique issue: although they have been unable to operate for a large part of the year, new cases were still being filed. As the courts begin to reopen, they face the difficult process of balancing the needs of litigants and the public health risk of restarting ‘business as usual.’
This means that many counties are encouraging parties to resolve their matters outside of the courtroom. For many people, alternative dispute resolution is the only way that they will be able to close their matter before next year. In family law, the most common form of alternative dispute resolution is mediation.
What does mediation involve?
Once you’ve reached a point where we can’t reach an agreement with the other side, the next step is typically going to trial. However, given the court’s current capacity, we try to find another way to get your case done. It is a good way to avoid the expense of a trial or hearing and gets your case done faster. Frequently, the cheapest and easiest way to do this is through mediation.
Here are a few of the major benefits of working through mediation:
- If you are heading for a trial, the court requires the parties to attempt mediation first.
- If it’s a hearing, some courts, but not all, require it too.
- It’s much cheaper to resolve a case through mediation than a trial. Many counties in Oregon offer free mediation sessions for family law matters.
- Mediation is much less hostile than trial, so it can help avoid new harsh feelings in an already tense family dynamic.
- Resolving a matter in mediation provides you a level of certainty that cannot happen at trial.
Mediation is a lot less formal than court. There is no Rules of Civil Procedure or Evidence, and you usually do not have to address anyone in mediation by a formal title. The mediator will know what your priorities are, and what things you have some wiggle room to offer, where a judge doesn’t speak with you directly. A mediator often suggests some new way to look at your case or a compromise that works for you both.
It’s a better way for you and the other party to make it YOUR agreement, and not have a judge decide your life moving forward. No one knows your life and family better than you and your opposing party, and so working through mediation can lead to unique solutions that fit your family better than an Order from a judge could.
What happens if we come to an agreement in mediation?
If you and your opposing party come to an agreement in mediation, you are almost done. You need to finalize your agreement in a writing that a judge can sign. Either you or your lawyer can draft the terms into a Stipulated Judgment that will be filed with the court. The courts in all counties are currently signing Stipulated Judgments, so you can have a finalized document in a much shorter amount of time.
If you and your opposing party are both unrepresented, you may want help drafting your mediation agreement. We offer this service in an unbundled drafting package.
Do you have questions about how mediation could work for you? Give us a call at 503-850-0811 to set up a meeting with an attorney.