Washington Divorce FAQ’s – Mediation

This is about mediation of divorce issues in Washington, including when and whether mediation is mandatory, who pays for it, and the required credentials for mediators for divorce issues in Washington.

This information is from Jennifer C.  Rydberg, the DivorceInfo Network Lawyer for Washington.

Is mediation mandatory? When?

In King County, Washington, all spouses going through a dissolution of marriage proceeding must participate in some form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) at least 45 days before the assigned trial date. Some other counties in Washington also require or recommend ADR before trial in family law cases.

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is a way to resolve the disputes you and your spouse have without “going to court”. This is usually done with a settlement conference, but you can also use mediation or arbitration.

A Settlement Conference lets you and your spouse remain in full control of how your disputes are settled. A moderator, who is usually a family law attorney or retired judge, is directive and can provide information about the law and legal consequences of the positions and choices each party is considering. Both parties and their lawyers must participate for the conference to be successful, but usually each side is placed in a separate room so they may speak frankly with the moderator. Settlement conferences are the most frequently used ADR for family law cases.

Mediation also leaves both parties in control of the process of solving their legal issues. The moderator, who is usually a family law attorney or retired judge, acts as a facilitator and is not directive. This settlement technique is most successful when performed with both parties present in the same room, and when each party feels secure that the balance of power between them is about equal.
Arbitration is like a mini-trial. From the facts supplied by the witnesses, parties, and their attorneys, the arbitrator decides what will happen. The parties control the information provided, but have no control over the result. The arbitrator’s decision is final.

Who pays for mediation?

ADR is most effective when each side pays for half of the fees involved. This way, each spouse is equally invested in focusing on a solution, and everyone knows the moderator/mediator has not been “bought”. Sometimes severe economic differences result in the wealthier party paying for more of the ADR fee. ADR fees are usually paid either in advance or at the time of service.

What are the requirements for who can act as mediator?

One of the benefits of using Alternative Dispute Resolution is that the person who helps you and your spouse resolve your disputes is someone you and your attorney have agreed upon. Usually this person is a lawyer or retired judge experienced in family law. Sometimes an a active judge is used, or another professional who is trained in helping people resolve disputes.

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