This mediation started off appearing to be pretty straight forward. The parties had Temporary Orders in place which they were following for almost a year. And both parties confirmed that things were going pretty well and neither side had any complaints about the other.
The problem was that one side just wanted to convert the Temporary Orders into Permanent Orders (by means of a Mediated Settlement Agreement) while the other side felt the Temporary Orders were unfair and needed to be substantially changed before a MSA could be signed.
What I found interesting was the manner in which the attorneys went about doing their jobs. Both acted outraged claiming that their clients were the real victims and the other side was exploiting the system. And when the attorneys act is this fashion, it definitely rubs off on the clients!
The unique thing about this mediation was that one side threatened to file a complaint using I-864, Affidavit of Support Under Section 213A of the Act if the other party did not comply with its demands. Obviously this threat (which could have been a bluff) raised the tempers on the other side and was not particularly conducive to reaching a settlement.
Around 4:00 pm, it appeared to me that things were heading nowhere. One of the parties started behaving rudely towards me and implied that I was not impartial. At this point, I decided to use some reverse psychology. I told both sides that it seemed to me that they were better off going to court and duking it out rather than waste any more time in mediation. To my surprise, rather than walking out, both parties immediately became more reasonable and finally we did reach a settlement at around 7:00 pm.
However, by the time I finished drafting the MSA, one of the parties had to leave due to some other engagement and so the MSA was signed only by one side with the understanding that the other side would sign it once they receive it. So far, I have not received word that that the other party signed – so I am not sure whether that party has developed “buyer’s remorse” and decided not to sign the MSA. I am expecting that is not the case but I will know for sure shortly at which time I will post an update.
And since only one party signed the agreement on the day of the mediation, I have feedback from only one attorney and that was pretty positive, as you can see, with the other one just sending me an email saying “congratulations on your efforts”. So, from my perspective, this was a successful mediation although there was a lot of grumbling by one party from beginning to end.
And in the wise words of one of the attorneys, you know it is a good MSA when no one is completely happy!
P.S. UPDATE – There was no “buyer’s remorse” and the other party (attorney and client) finally countersigned the MSA today – so apparently, they are still happy with the agreement, a week after the mediation took place – that is a good sign for its long term durability! And it allowed me to maintain my 100% settlement record!!