Mediation and other Alternatives to Trial

Normally the parties will try to settle their case. See the section on Marital Dissolution Agreement and Negotiations with Your Spouse. If that does not work, the attorneys will normally try to settle the case. These approaches are dynamic and can both go on at the same time. Sometimes despite the best efforts of everyone, the case will not settle. Before going to the ultimate test of a trial, there are alternatives.

Mediation is negotiations with a neutral party assisting the negotiations. Mediation is required before trial in most cases in Tennessee. The mediator is not an advocate for either spouse. The mediator does not “take sides” or make decisions for you. They merely facilitate settlement. I recommend this and urge you to ask me more about it for your specific case. Even if your spouse is opposed to mediation, the court can still order it. If you have been the victim of abuse the court may not order mediation unless:

• you agree to mediation

• the mediator is certified in both mediation and domestic violence

• you are permitted to have your attorney or another person accompany you

Our office has also used judicial settlement conferences in which a judge from another court listens to both sides and gives a nonbinding opinion on the case. This has settled some very difficult cases.

You may want to consider arbitration. In arbitration, the arbitrator makes a final decision. The arbitrator is like a judge, but you must pay the arbitrator and you are bound by the decision.

There are other alternatives such as a mini or summary trial. There has been little use of these alternatives in our area in divorce but if you are interested in these alternatives, please ask me about them.

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