For many years now, King County Superior Court has required that parties engage in some kind of dispute resolution process prior to proceeding to trial.
The most common kind of dispute resolution process used is a form of mediation called a settlement conference
The object of this type of mediation is to reach a settlement agreement without either the risk of expense of a full trial. Trials tend to end with win/lose solutions. In settlement conference mediation both sides are asked to compromise based on the relative strength of their positions to arrive at a solution both sides can buy into.
Settlement Conference mediation is generally held shortly before trial, after both sides have completed gathering evidence and preparing their legal arguments for trial. The mediator is expected to be able to evaluate the case after hearing from both sides and give an educated neutral opinion about the likely outcome at trial.
For this kind of mediation, the parties are generally kept in separate rooms
The mediator moves back and forth between the rooms, talking to each party in turn. The first round with the mediator is mostly for the party and their attorney to explain their position (beyond what was submitted on paper prior to the settlement conference) and answer questions the mediator might have.
On the second round
The mediator works with each side to formulate a settlement proposal. This usually involves taking that side’s original settlement position and asking them to modify it downward based on the mediator’s advice as to likely trial results.
Subsequent rounds involve the mediator carrying proposals back and forth and working with each side to further modify their positions to try and find something both would be willing to agree to.
If an agreement is reached
The mediator will draft up a short document laying out the basics of the agreement, which both sides will be asked to sign before leaving the settlement conference. The attorneys for both sides will later flesh out that agreement into a longer document that provides greater detail.
At Seattle Divorce Services we have several settlement conference mediators who would be happy to help you resolve your case. When you call in, specify that you are looking to schedule a settlement conference so we can start the process to get it scheduled with both sides.