Family law issues are generally not open and close cases. Things are very rarely black and white. When families are in turmoil, emotions run high and people are willing to fight. That naturally will bog down a court system, making cases last longer and cost more.
To help alleviate that problem, many courts in Iowa order parties to participate in mediation. Mediations can be useful. They offer an easier, less formal, less stressful, and less expensive way to settle whatever conflict is plaguing a family. However, they often do not satisfy the person who only wants to fight. This is the nature of mediation.
What is mediation?
Mediation is a process by which legal matters get settled outside of the courtroom. Generally, Person A and their attorney (if they have one) will sit in Room A, while Person B and their attorney sit in Room B down the hall. The mediator, who is a disinterested third party and generally also an attorney, will go from Room A to Room B and attempt to make a settlement agreement that both parties can live with. That, of course, is mediation in the simplest of terms, and in its most common form.
You may have heard that if no one leaves mediation happy, then the mediation has worked (assuming you've left with an agreement). That may sound crazy, but if you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Mediation is meant to be a meeting ground, a place where people compromise to come to an agreement. If someone went to mediation and got 100% of everything they wanted, the mediation didn't work the way it was supposed to. Generally, Person A will ask for the orange and Person B will ask for the same orange, but of course the whole orange can only go to one person, or else be divided in some way. During the mediation, the mediator tries to help the parties determine what each of them can live with. Maybe the orange is split in half, but issues are generally not so simple. Maybe Person A can live with only having the rind of the orange- they only want the orange so they can use the zest to make a cake. Person B can live with only having the inside of the orange- they wanted to eat the orange, so the rind was no good to them anyway.
So why mediate? As you can see from the extremely simplified example above, there was a solution that made everybody at least a little bit happy. Neither got 100% of what they wanted (the whole orange), but they found a middle ground they could both live with. If Person A and B had gone to court and had a judge decide who should get the orange, a judge may very well have just given the whole orange to one person. Mediation will more often than not end in a better outcome for both parties. It allows parties to make their own decisions, instead of leaving it to a judge. No one knows Person A and Person B's lives better than they do, and some judge they've never met before who has to learn their whole life story in one or two days arguably is not the best person to be making decisions that could affect their lives for years to come.
Mediation as a solution, not a hurdle.
Many people see mediation as a hurdle to get over, something that needs to be dealt with to get to the next level. I challenge my clients to see mediation as the end game. It should be the goal people aim for. As with all things, mediation will not work for everyone, but you never know if it will work for you until you give it a try. If it does, your case will be done faster and cheaper, and you will always remain in control.