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Is Mediation Binding?

Nancy L. Giardina, Esq. Oct. 5, 2023

There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to ending a marriage. Contrary to popular belief, divorce does not always have to be a contentious, drawn-out legal battle. An ever-increasing number of couples who cannot agree on certain aspects of their divorce often consider mediation as an alternative to traditional divorce.  

Mediation can help resolve any point of contention between the parties without court intervention. However, since mediation does not involve the court, many people have concerns about whether or not mediation is legally binding.  

At Nancy L. Giardina, Esq., I help clients either as a mediator or as a consulting lawyer for clients in the mediation process. As a divorce mediator in Syracuse, New York, I provide the personalized attention and support clients deserve to navigate this difficult time. My office also proudly serves clients throughout Oswego County, Onondaga County, Cortland County, Madison County, and Cayuga County.  

What Is Divorce Mediation?  

Divorce mediation is a non-adversarial process to end the marriage. In mediation, both spouses work together with a neutral third party – known as the “mediator” – to reach agreements on all aspects of divorce. In mediation, couples can finalize their divorce in one or multiple sessions without making a single court appearance.  

The mediator’s job is to facilitate discussions between the parties in order to resolve all disputed issues, including property division, child custody, child support, and others. However, mediators do not make decisions for the parties nor do they offer legal advice. Rather, their role is to help the parties communicate effectively and guide them toward an agreement.   

Is Mediation Legally Binding?  

Many people mistakenly believe that agreements made in mediation sessions are not legally binding because mediation is an out-of-court process. However, divorce mediation is legally binding as long as both parties sign the mediated divorce agreement. After the parties place their signatures, the mediated agreement becomes a legally binding contract. Frequently, the parties wish to obtain a court order that incorporates the agreement, such as a Judgment of Divorce, or a family court order of custody or child support.

When one of the parties fails to comply with the terms of the mediated agreement, the parties can return to mediation or enforce the agreement in the court system.  

What Are the Benefits of Mediation?  

When considering the best way to end your marriage, you might want to learn more about the benefits of mediation. Some of the most prominent advantages of mediating divorce include: 

  1. More control. When you take your divorce to court, you are at the mercy of the judge. By contrast, when mediating your divorce, you place your future into your own hands. In mediation, spouses have greater control over the outcome and the process as a whole.  

  1. Faster resolution. In most cases, divorce mediation takes less time than litigation. Depending on the complexity of the divorce case, the court process can take anywhere from six months to more than a year. Mediation is almost always quicker than the traditional divorce process, which allows the parties to resolve their issues faster and move on with their lives.  

  1. Less expensive. Divorce mediation also tends to be more cost-efficient than the process of divorce litigation. Depending on the number of disputes issues, spouses may need one or several mediation sessions to reach an agreement. In most cases, the parties usually split the cost of mediation.  

  1. More confidential. Everything the parties say during mediation sessions will be kept confidential, which means spouses can freely discuss sensitive and personal topics without worrying that the details of their lives will become part of the public record.  

These four benefits of mediation often make couples choose mediation over litigation.  

Do New York Courts Require Mediation?  

In 2019, New York announced a statewide “presumptive mediation” initiative, which required courts to refer many divorce cases to mediation early in the process. However, the requirement for mediation varies from one county to another. Once a petition for divorce is filed, the court will decide whether or not to refer the case to mandatory mediation.  

In some counties, divorce cases are usually referred to mediation when the divorcing couple does not have any minor children or the spouses voluntarily request mediation. However, even if your divorce case is referred to mediation, the process is still voluntary, as the parties can stop it at any time.  

Helping You Get Lasting Results  

If you are considering trying mediation or your divorce case has been referred to mediation, contact me. At Nancy L. Giardina, Esq., I can help you navigate the process smoothly and effectively, either by acting as your mediator or supporting you as your lawyer in the mediation process. You and the other party can work together so that the resulting settlement is in your best interests and is legally binding. Get in touch today to request a free 20-minute virtual consultation. as