Meet Amanda J. Cook, Family Law Attorney
Family Law Mediator Serving Clients in Gig Harbor (Pierce and Kitsap Counties)
Going through a family law dispute under any circumstances can be a frustrating, anxiety-inducing, and generally challenging experience. Given that family law cases often involve significant emotional investment, these issues can feel nearly impossible to manage, much less resolve. Mediation is often beneficial to parties experiencing this conflict.
Amanda J. Cook is a family law mediator who assists to resolve disputes among spouses, former spouses and parents located in Gig Harbor and the broader Pierce and Kitsap County region.
What is Mediation in a Gig Harbor Family Law Case?
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) that facilitates resolution of a legal dispute without taking the case to court. Under Washington law, mediation is defined as “a process in which a mediator facilitates communication and negotiation between parties to assist them in reaching a voluntary agreement regarding their dispute.”
While mediation can be helpful to resolve a wide variety of legal disputes, it is particularly favored as a means to resolve family law disputes. Washington law encourages parties to utilize mediation for divorce, separation or child custody matters “to reduce acrimony which may exist between the parties” and, if children are involved, “to develop an agreement assuring the child’s close and continuing contact with both parents after the marriage or the domestic partnership is dissolved.”
Unlike court, which is in most cases a public proceeding, mediation is confidential. The mediator is a neutral third-party who assists parties to engage in dialogue and facilitates negotiation to resolve their disputed issues. The mediator does not “take sides” and does not have any stake in the outcome of the mediation. The responsibility of a mediator is to encourage and facilitate resolution, but the mediator is not a judge and does not have authority to make decisions.
When the parties reach agreement at mediation, they prepare and sign a written document that includes all the terms of their agreement. The signed written agreement makes it binding upon the parties and provides assurance that the matter is resolved, even if it may still be necessary to present court orders consistent with the agreement.
The mediator cannot provide legal advice. Both parties are encouraged to seek advice from a lawyer before participating in mediation or signing a written agreement. If a party has retained a lawyer, then s/he typically participates in mediation as well. Having a lawyer present is helpful to provide legal advice during mediation and assist in preparing a written agreement.
Ultimately, if the parties cannot reach an agreement through mediation, they may still move forward with litigation and go to trial so a judge can make decisions. In the event the parties must go to trial, all communication and negotiation made at mediation will remain strictly confidential and cannot be disclosed.
How Mediation Differs from Other Forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution
Mediation is distinct from other forms of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), such as arbitration or collaborative law.
In particular, people are often confused regarding the difference between arbitration and mediation. Similar to mediation, the arbitration process is also a means to reach a binding resolution outside of court with the assistance of a neutral third-party, but the similarities stop there. Unlike a mediator who encourages parties to reach their own resolution, an arbitrator makes decisions for the parties. The process is similar to going to court, but is often less formal and is conducted confidentially. Most arbitration decisions are final. If one of the parties dislikes the outcome, there are very few instances in which the decision may be appealed.
Benefits of Mediating a Family Law Issue
The many benefits of mediating a family law issue include but are not limited to the following:
- Cost-effective: Mediation is much more cost-effective than litigating a family law dispute, and typically saves a significant amount of money for both parties.
- Quicker: The mediation session is usually conducted in one day, taking much less time than a family law trial in front of a judge; also, disputes may be resolved in mediation scheduled on the parties’ timeline, without waiting for a court hearing or trial scheduled weeks to even as much as a year in the future;
- Private: Unlike a family law trial at court, mediation allows the parties to keep the specific facts and issues of their dispute private, as the negotiation and dialogue is completely confidential.
- Results: Unlike a family law trial after which the judge makes the final decision, parties participating in mediation are more involved and in control of the ultimate resolution of their dispute.
- Improved communication: While an obvious benefit of mediation is that it allows the disputing parties to engage in dialogue to resolve the dispute, the mediation process promotes improved future communication between the parties, which can be particularly helpful for parents who will continue co-parenting after a divorce.
Contact a Gig Harbor Mediator
At the Law Office of Amanda J. Cook PLLC, we know how complex family law matters can be. We also fundamentally believe that those complexities are best resolved by agreement of the parties, rather than a decision made by a judge. Reaching agreement prior to trial allows the parties control over the result and limits animosity between former spouses, parents and children.
Attorney Amanda J. Cook understands that family law disputes are often very difficult to resolve, particularly when there is a vast gap between the parties’ respective positions, and often utilizes mediation to bridge that gap. In addition to helping her own clients navigate these difficult disputes, Amanda J. Cook also serves as a neutral third-party mediator to assist in resolving family law disputes among individuals in Pierce County and Kitsap County.
The assistance of an experienced family law mediator can timely resolve disputes, allowing parties to control the results and limit acrimony. Please call us today for more information.
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We recognize the value of preserving civility in the legal process, particularly when working with families.
Each and every client and their case matter to us.
…Divorce and child custody issues are stressful enough to continually go through ,but Amanda always knew how to ease some of that stress. There’s no better feeling than having the utmost confidence in your attorney. Amanda was always there whenever we had questions or needed clarification. She’s hands down one of the best around!
Steve & Marissa
Amanda went above and beyond to help us in every way when it came to our custody issues. She was there for us every step of the way. Her knowledge and expertise helped us at every turn. She is a wonderful person and even better lawyer to have on your side. Thank you ever so much Amanda for your time and effort.