Will Mandatory Mediation Help Settle New York Divorce Cases?

A mandatory mediation program has been implemented in Supreme Court Nassau County for all couples who seek to have their divorces heard by a judge. How successful will this program be in helping couples settle their cases without additional court involvement? After reading the New York Times City Room Blog it appears there is some skepticism among attorneys. As a divorce mediator, I’m obviously encouraged whenever our court system embraces alternatives to litigation, such as the Office of Court Administration’s Collaborative Family Law Center. However, I don’t know what kind of impact a single 1½ hour session with a mediator can have on parties who have already made the decision to bring their matters to court and have already retained attorneys to litigate on their behalf. By the time the Judge directs them to mediation, both the parties and their attorneys may be too invested in having “their day in court” to appreciate the powerful results that successful mediation can provide. It is hoped, therefore, that the mediators who are meeting with these parties will use their allotted time to help them comprehend that they have a much better chance of having their most important needs met if they and their spouse can find a way to hear and understand each other. Because if that point isn’t understood by the time the parties leave the mediator’s office, they will walk right back to their litigation attorneys and pick up where they left off in the courtroom.