Absolutely. In my fifteen your experience as a mediator I have never heard of a case too complex for mediation. (It might be argued that mediation is the most appropriate venue for the resolution of such cases as opposed to litigating these matters, either before a court with serious time constraints and/or a jury with little education or knowledge about such complex issues.)
It is important, however, to remember the following when deciding to mediate a case with complex issues.
- Choose an experienced divorce mediator knowledgeable in the area or areas of the case that are complex. Although a mediator cannot decide the outcome of your case, nor can he or she give legal advice regarding the issues, his or her duties include assisting the parties and counsel in untangling the complex issues so that informed decisions can be made as to the outcome. In order to carry out these duties, the mediator should be well versed in the areas of law or facts that give rise to the complex issues so that probative questions and risk-evaluation can be extensively discussed and determined so as to allow the parties and their counsel to reach a satisfactory resolution.
- Complex cases, when they involve emotional issues, property issues or child-related issues, require the presence of counsel, (and perhaps other experts such as CPA’s, business evaluation specialists, and psychologists as well) at the mediation. Remember, you are making complex decisions that will affect your future and the future of your children. This is not the time to skimp. In the long run, you will save both time and money in the mediation (as opposed to litigation) and will have a resolution that is of your own making rather than one imposed upon you.
- Lastly, complex cases are complex only because of the number of issues involved. The secret to a successful mediation of these cases is to break down the number of issues, prioritize them and deal with them one at a time until they are all resolved. As the old joke goes: “Do you know how to eat an elephant?” Answer: “One bite at a time!”
Suzanne Mann Duvall is a mediator with Burdin Mediations in Dallas. With over 600 hours of basic and advanced training in mediation, she has mediated over 1300 cases to resolution. Ms. Duvall was most recently named “Super Lawyer 2003 & 2004” by Texas Monthly magazine.