Our many years of experience inside and outside of the courtroom have led us to conclude that most family law matters can be effectively handled through mediation. Unlike a more traditional court procedure where a judge issues a final ruling after advocates on both sides present evidence, a mediation is typically facilitated by a trained mediator whose role is to use tried and true techniques to help the parties negotiate to reach a settlement outside of court. The parties make the final decisions, not the mediator or the attorneys. It puts you in control of the outcome in a way a court process cannot and, in most cases, the parties feel more satisfied with the results. It typically is far less expensive, more private, and helps avoid the emotional and financial drain of court proceedings.
It is very common that courts in the District of Columbia and Maryland will order the parties to a divorce or custody proceeding to mediate their disputes before coming to a trial, and most parties wind up settling their disputes during the mediation. If you are going to wind up in mediation one way or another, why not simply start there? It works.
Mediation can come in many shapes and sizes. You can choose to participate in mediation as parties without attorneys, or you can choose to participate with your counsel.
A good mediator will frame issues quickly and help you move down a path toward resolution, all while allowing you to express your frustrations and concerns and encouraging your ideas for resolving them. A good mediator never imposes his or her own judgments or biases, but rather seeks out points of common interest between two parties to build upon, and can help explain how the law informs the ultimate resolution of the matter. A good mediator has experience in both litigation and negotiation, can help parties make decisions based on experience, and drafts clear documents to help the parties move forward with clarity and dignity.
What Makes Us Different
Mediation is becoming far more common in the District of Columbia and Maryland. All four McKinney Figini attorneys are trained mediators and have extensive experience representing clients in mediation. We resolve most of our matters through negotiation and mediation because we believe this form of dispute resolution serves clients best and allows them to control decisions that affect them.
Meg and Joe routinely serve as mediators themselves, with Meg being a “go to” mediator for the courts and fellow counsel in active family law litigation disputes. Joe has particular talent in facilitating family law and partnership issues between parties who do not themselves have counsel. Our inclusive and flexible approach to practicing law and our experience in representing clients on both sides of legal disputes for over sixty years, when coupled with our ability to empathize with and listen to others, make Meg and Joe particularly effective mediators. Most of our mediations result in successful settlements.
Our mediations most commonly help resolve family court issues, such as child custody, child support, alimony, distribution of property, and any other issues that emerge during the divorce and uncoupling process. We are well-versed in child development and the social science research regarding children of separation and divorce, which allows us to help parents focus on what will be best for their children in the short- and long-term. To help parties settle their financial differences in a more amicable manner, we focus on helping parties quantify potential outcomes and help them perform a cost-benefit analysis when making financial decisions.
Most importantly, when our attorneys engage in the mediation process, we help bring a neutral perspective, years of experience, and creative solutions. In cases where parties do not have representation themselves, we employ a concept known as “positive neutrality” to help both parties feel protected in the process, with all options being thoroughly explained so decisions can be made knowingly and with the understanding of their consequences.
Through our skillful and patient approach, we are able to settle most cases without the need for anyone to enter a courtroom–and for far less money. A win-win all the way around.
How we will work together
- If we represent you as a client, we will review the pros and cons of mediation with you early in your matter. We will try to find ways to accelerate your participation in mediation so your matter can be resolved quickly and efficiently, especially if mediation is expected to be scheduled by the court in the future.
- It is critical that we identify mediators who will be a good match for you and your matter. There are plenty of qualified mediators in the D.C. metropolitan area, but need a mediator who matches your personality, your goals, and helps you feel comfortable expressing your concerns.
- We will prepare for mediation in a way that will help the mediator facilitate a result rapidly. This means crisply articulating the interests on both sides and suggesting ideas for bringing parties together.
- Drafting a settlement agreement quickly is also critical to resolving your matter promptly through mediation. We are expert drafters, and often are granted the power of the pen to propose first drafts given our reputation for proposing thorough and clear agreements.
- When we serve as mediator, we listen. And then we listen more. We will help you express your concerns in a way that is constructive without making any judgments about them. And we will use techniques we have learned through our extensive training and experience to help drive resolution in a way that leaves both parties feeling ownership over the result. It is common that neither party will feel totally happy with a result over such difficult personal issues, but in our experience, most parties to mediation do feel more satisfied with the fairness of the process and with how it helps them get to a resolution more quickly and inexpensively.