In family law cases, issues such as custody, child support, alimony and division of assets are all dealt with. If the parties and their attorneys are not able, themselves, to negotiate a settlement agreement, the Court will often order the parties to participate in mediation in an effort to help the parties reach a stipulated agreement. In mediation, a neutral third-party (mediator) who is trained in family law matters is appointed to help the parties reach a mutually acceptable agreement. Usually only the parties directly participate in mediation sessions with the mediator, without their attorneys being present. The attorneys, however, continue to counsel with their clients about settlement terms discussed in the mediation sessions. If an agreement is tentatively reached in mediation, the parties will review it with their attorneys first, before officially signing onto the agreement. Even in hotly contested cases, most couples choose to settle out of court through negotiation and mediation, rather than go all the way through trial to have the judge decide the outcome.
Robert Vail has represented clients as an attorney in family law matters for over 20 years. He is also an experienced family law mediator, in which cases he serves as the neutral third party (does not represent either side) in helping parties work out practical and reasonable parenting plans and property settlement agreements.