Mediation

Mediation is a structured process that helps the parties involved in a disputed case achieve a voluntary settlement. A specially trained neutral third party, known as a mediator, facilitates discussion among the parties and assists in finding creative ways to resolve the dispute.

What are the Advantages?

There are many benefits to mediation for a family that is involved in a probate or elder law related dispute.

  • It’s quick: Court proceedings often take years. Most mediations, by contrast, are one-day sessions that end with the parties agreeing to a full and final settlement.
  • Lower cost: A fast resolution of the dispute dramatically reduces court costs, attorney’s fees and other litigation expenses.
  • You get to decide: Mediation is a completely voluntary process, and a mediation settlement is binding only if all the parties unanimously agree. This is exact opposite from litigation, where a judge, not the family, decides who wins and who loses.
  • Flexibility: An experienced mediator who knows probate law can help a family develop creative, win-win solutions to disputes. Mediation, unlike litigation, isn’t a win-or-lose proposition.
  • Good for family relationships: Mediation is especially advantageous in probate and elder law matters, which almost always involve disagreements among family members. By helping the parties understand each other’s perspectives and facilitating an amicable resolution, mediation can have lasting benefits for a family.
  • It’s confidential: By law, court proceedings must be open to the public. Mediation is private, so no one else gets to see a family’s “dirty laundry.”

Mediation isn’t appropriate for every case. It can succeed only if you and the other parties are willing to compromise, so it’s not a good fit if any of you have a “win at any cost” attitude.” Arbitration may be a better choice when the parties simply want a faster process to get a decision.

Here’s how mediation works:
  1. Mediation occurs only if all the parties involved in the case agree to participate. They must also agree on a mediator and must specify how the parties will divide the mediator’s fee. All these details are spelled out in an Agreement to Mediate document.
  2. The mediator schedules the mediation session at a time and location that permits all the parties and their attorneys to participate. Most mediations are planned as all-day sessions so that there is enough time for in-depth discussions and a full opportunity to come to agreement on a settlement. On occasion, half-day mediation sessions are scheduled for less complex matters. In either case, because the process is very focused, all parties and attorneys must clear their schedules for the whole session to avoid any interruptions.
  3. On the day of the mediation, the mediator will typically begin with a group discussion with all parties and attorneys, followed by individual meetings among the mediator and individual parties and their attorneys. The mediator will listen to each side of the case and help the parties identify the issues that are most important to them. The mediator will work to develop options to resolve the dispute in ways that are mutually beneficial.
If the mediation is successful…

the attorneys will prepare a written summary of the settlement that all parties sign before the mediation session ends. In most cases, the attorneys will follow up by preparing a more detailed settlement agreement, which is often submitted to the court to end the litigation.

If the mediation ends without a settlement…

the case will proceed in court. Alternatively, the mediator may schedule an additional mediation session if the parties are making progress but have not yet reached a settlement.

Do you need a mediator?

If you need a mediator, you've come to the right place. Attorney and former judge Paul Knierim facilitates mediations for our firm. His experience includes more than two decades of service in the judiciary. After 10 years as judge of the Simsbury Probate Court, the Chief Justice appointed Paul to lead the state’s Probate Courts as Probate Court Administrator, a role he served from 2008 to 2019. Before becoming a judge, Paul practiced law in the trusts and estates field.

Paul is uniquely skilled in bringing a sense of calm to tense situations and facilitating creative solutions. A problem-solver with deep knowledge of probate law and keen insight into family dynamics, Paul provides objective and practical guidance to help families resolve their conflicts quickly, cost effectively and with as little drama as possible.

To initiate the mediation process, please contact Paul at 860-236-7673.

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