Divorce Mediation in Washington State
Paul Battan has received 80 hours of mediation training at the University of Washington. He has made mediation an important part of his divorce practice for years, either by serving as a mediator, by preparing his clients to attend mediation without attorneys, or by participating in mediation side-by-side with his clients.
What is mediation?
A private, informal dispute resolution process in which a neutral third person, the mediator, helps parties discuss disputes and reach an agreement. The mediator has no power to impose a decision on the parties. The mediator helps the parties identify interests rather than positions. The mediator helps the parties identify options that meet both parties' interests. The process is confidential. Nothing said in mediation, nor any documents that are prepared for mediation, can be disclosed to the court unless there is a settlement. Parties may settle their case in one short session, or may return to the mediator many times, until the case is settled.
Negotiating interests, not positions, is the key to mediation
The key to mediation is moving the discussion from the parties' expressed positions to the interests underlying those positions, which are often not expressed. In this way, negotiating is not a process of moving to a compromised middle position that neither party wants. Instead, it is an attempt to identify options that meet both parties' true interests so that a settlement can truly satisfy both parties. The following is a simple example:
- Mother's position: "I want the children home Sunday by 5:00 p.m."
- Father's position: "I will bring them home at 8:00 p.m."
- Mother's unexpressed interest: "I would like the children home for a bath before bedtime."
- Father's unexpressed interest: "I would like the children to have Sunday dinner with me."
What is the best result by identifying both interests? A return time that allows for both interests.
Two Approaches to Divorce Mediation - Facilitative and Evaluative Mediation
Simply put, a "facilitative mediator" works hard to help the parties identify their own interests and solutions. The mediator simply "facilitates" the parties' communication. The "evaluative mediator" acts as "evaluator" of the positions being expressed by the parties and actively seeks and suggests settlement positions. No mediator works exclusively in one mode.
Why mediate instead of litigate a divorce?
- Meditation is required in many cases by rule, statute, or contract. In Washington, most parenting plans require mediation so that cases do not return to court unless parents have tried hard to resolve disputes outside of court.
- Mediation has the potential to provide the best and longest lasting resolution for parties. This is true when the mediated settlement is not just the end of litigation, but instead is a true resolution that meets both parties' needs.
- Mediation is less costly than litigation, emotionally and financially.
What should you do to prepare for mediation?
- Identify your positions and underlying interests regarding unresolved issues. Become educated about realistic expectations. If yours are not realistic, change them.
- Attempt to identify the other party's positions and interests regarding unresolved issues.
- Identify areas of likely agreement by identifying options that you think would meet both parties' interests.
- Prepare to listen patiently to the other party's positions and interests.
- Prepare to change your positions based on agreement about interests.
- Talk to an attorney about the most likely alternative to settlement. This is a frank assessment of risks that must include attorney's fees and other litigation expenses and the emotional costs of litigating.
How can you find a mediator?
Many attorney and counselors have been trained as mediators. You can privately hire and attorney or counselor to work with you as a mediator, or you can contact a dispute resolution center where mediators volunteer or work at reduced rates. Here are the links for three of them: