Washington State does not require mediation in a divorce. It does, however, give the courts the authority to order mediation.
Some counties have mandated local rules which require alternative dispute resolution in a divorce. One of those alternative methods is mediation. A party may file a waiver to this rule in certain situations, one of which is where domestic violence is an issue.
The purpose of mediation is to allow a neutral third-party to assist the parties in reaching an amicable settlement without litigation. Often times, courts will order mediation when there are only one or two issues the parties in a divorce cannot agree on. This allows those issues to be settled outside of the courtroom, without the need to hear arguments or present evidence.
Settlement obtained through mediation is less expensive and less formal than a court proceeding. If the parties can agree to all matters in mediation, they may choose to make their agreement legally binding. Though they will still need to attend court to finalize the divorce, the process will be much quicker and less stressful.
There is an optimal time to mediate a divorce case. It is often referred to as the "Golden Window," and lies around four to eight weeks prior to a scheduled trial. Cases that are mediated during this time period settle 90 percent of the time.
Parties in a divorce will each be responsible for 50 percent of a mediator's fee, plus all of their own attorney fees. Mediator fees are usually less expensive than attorney fees, which can rack up to several thousand dollars over the course of a divorce trial.
Speaking with an experienced divorce attorney can help guide the mediation process resulting in a much speedier resolution.