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Divorce Mediator Can Only Play Neutral Role

Perhaps one of the most significant trends in family law in California is the interest in mediation as an option to litigation.

Mediation is a dispute resolution procedure in which the husband and wife mutually identify a neutral third party, ideally an experienced family law attorney, to assist them in reaching agreements to avoid formal intervention by a Family Court judge.

There is no doubt mediation can be a valuable alternative and Steven M. Bishop carefully analyzes this option with every client.

However, because the mediator must be completely neutral, once an attorney is contacted by a prospective client to discuss their case, the neutrality is effectively destroyed and a potential conflict of interest arises which generally precludes a lawyer from serving in the capacity of the mediator.

Furthermore, because the mediator cannot give legal advice to either party (this would also destroy the requirement of neutrality), every qualified mediator insists the parties have their own separate attorneys for purposes of reviewing and discussing any proposed agreement.

Unfortunately, if the parties are unable to reach an agreement as the result of mediation, they have expended significant fees relative to the services of the mediator and may be no further along in the process. In addition, they have also paid their own individual lawyers along the way and may have received minimal benefit as a result.

Consequently, while Steven M. Bishop is willing to serve as a designated mediator if approached by both clients (or their respective attorneys) for that purpose, his preference is to work with an individual client to establish an atmosphere of trust and cooperation with the other spouse and their lawyer conducive to constructive negotiations.

Additionally, Steven M. Bishop has been very successful in encouraging the other spouse to meet with him and his client for settlement discussions which may eliminate or minimize the need for the other party to retain independent counsel, other than to review various proposals and the ultimate settlement documents.

This approach embraces the mediation concept by encouraging an environment which allows both parties the opportunity to speak their mind, have their opinions heard and options discussed, but also provides the opportunity for legal advice and information to be shared and analyzed, hopefully resulting in an ultimate resolution of all issues without litigation.

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