In this Q&A, attorney Blake Bittel outlines the benefits of mediation in domestic law cases for judges, attorneys and clients.
Q: Why should judges consider moving divorce cases that come before them to mediation?
Blake Bittel: Moving to mediation expedites the settlement process while reducing court backlogs and allowing judges to direct their attention to other cases.
Domestic law trials often take two to four days to complete, and additional time may be required if the financial issues at hand are complex. With mediation, courts receive a letter informing them that mediation was successful, prompting them to adopt the agreement and finalize the divorce or custody proceedings within a fairly short deadline following the mediation.
Mediation also eases some of the pressure on judges to make difficult final decisions, as parties make these decisions themselves throughout the mediation process. With the aid of a mediator, parties can identify issues, reduce misunderstandings and clarify points of agreement before reaching a settlement on their own terms.
Q: Why should attorneys consider moving to mediation when possible?
Blake Bittel: Mediation encourages cooperation and reduces tension between parties, thereby easing the emotional burden on attorneys.
In many domestic law cases, attorneys work with highly emotional individuals. Hostility between parties can inhibit an attorney’s ability to provide the best possible solution for their clients.
Mediators act as neutral third parties to handle their client’s emotional needs while refocusing parties on what needs to be accomplished to finalize the dispute.
Bringing a domestic case before a judge can be stressful for attorneys, who cannot guarantee an equitable ruling from the court. Mediation agreements give parties the final say in the outcome and eliminate uncertainty for both attorneys and clients.
Q: How can clients benefit from mediation?
Blake Bittel: Mediation is much less expensive than court proceedings, allowing parties with complex divorce or custody situations to ease their financial strain. Prior to meeting, parties receive a letter from their mediator clearly outlining relevant fees. Clients looking to limit attorney fees can remove travel costs by opting for Zoom meetings.
Q: What qualities should judges and attorneys look for in a mediator?
Blake Bittel: It is important to look for a seasoned mediator with:
A high rate of successful settlements
Reasonable hourly rates
A commitment to making clients comfortable, including separate rooms for each party
Virtual Zoom options for clients
A focus on creative solutions
EXPERIENCE in years of handling these types of matters both as a private practitioner and a District Judge
Blake’s practice focuses on all aspects of family law, civil litigation, trust and estate litigation, and mediation.
Blake understands that, in domestic law, many cases are not a simple 50/50 split – settlements involving non-liquid assets such as farmland or equipment require more flexible problem-solving. No matter the case, he is committed to working with clients through each step of the mediation process to deliver an equitable settlement for both parties.
Blake’s former experience as District Judge for the 23rd Judicial District of Kansas has contributed to his success as a mediator and broadened his knowledge of domestic law and mediation.
In his family law practice, Blake has extensive experience working with individuals as they navigate divorce and child custody agreements as well as division of assets, including land, businesses, farming operations and investments. Additionally, he has an extensive litigation practice, assisting businesses and individuals with a variety of issues.