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24 Jul 16

Are Mediation Papers Public Record?

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When a couple opts to get a divorce, there are several ways in which the case may be settled. One such option is to go through mediation, which may enable both parties to settle the case while preserving relationships between each other and with their children. If you are thinking about going through mediation, will any records be made public?

What Is Mediation?

Mediation is a process in which you and your spouse meet privately with a neutral party. This person is there to facilitate a discussion that will hopefully lead to an agreement on some or all outstanding issues. For instance, it may be possible to come to an agreement over who gets custody of the children or who gets to take possession of the marital home. It is important to note that neither party is obligated to agree to anything, but if an agreement is reached, it is binding on both parties. In some cases, an agreement may not be reached during an initial session. However, further talks may yield a formal agreement before a trial begins.

Mediation Is a Confidential Process

The mediation process is a confidential one between the divorcing couple and the mediator. Therefore, your mediation papers will not be made public. The fact that mediation is confidential is one of the reasons why many couples are willing to try it before opting for litigation. It is also preferable to arbitration as there is no witness testimony and the parties come to an agreement on their own as opposed to letting the arbiter rule. While the mediation process may not be made public, any agreement that is reached as a result of mediation may be entered into the public record.

Can You Have Legal Counsel During Mediation?

Although mediation is an informal and confidential process, it does not mean you should go through it on your own. There is a good chance that your spouse will have legal counsel during this process, which means that you should too. An attorney will be able to answer your questions and otherwise look out for your best interest. While a mediator cannot force you to agree to anything, he or she is a neutral party who may not be able to answer questions or give advice like an attorney can.

A Court May Order Mediation Initially

In some cases, a court may order that you go through mediation before going to trial. However, anything that happens in mediation is generally kept private even if it is part of a litigation process. For some, it may be beneficial to negotiate in good faith as it could keep financial and other private records out of the public eye.

If you’re worried about your privacy during a divorce, mediation may be in your best interest. You can have legal counsel by your side during the process, and it may be the best chance to solve the case in a timely manner, which can save thousands in legal fees. In the event that a judge orders mediation before allowing a trial to begin, make sure you attend the session as failure to do so could harm your chances of a favorable outcome.

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