Court-appointed adjudication is a process whereby parties to a conflict are reassigned to a court appointed agent. If the agent is called a “mediator”, this can be a confusing title if mediation is not used. The agent assigned by the court is tasked with finding the most expedient solution within the definition of the court’s jurisdiction, but these agents are not required to utilize mediation techniques. They are acting in the best interest of the court, which are not necessaily the same as what couples need.
The substance and data of the conflict are heard by this agent, who then analyses the information, develops outcome options, and makes a recommendation to the court. This can be cost effective, especially for cases where the adjudicator is an expert for all sides of the conflict and an ongoing relationship between the parties is not expected nor desired. It takes time to understand an issue outside the court room, which is a benefit to a busy judge inside. This process aims to provide an outcome where the trusted agent can speak for all concerned to the court.
There are issues however. The parties should know what they are getting into:
“Mediator” suggests mediation will be utilized as the process of resolution, which is not the case in many situations.
For parties who are expecting to participate beyond the discovery phase with an attorney agent, the process of adjudication can be painful and shocking.
Adjudication is more focused on getting cases through the court than on developing solutions benefiting a family system. In other words, solutions that satisfy the court do not necessarily address:
- empowering people to make the right choice for themselves;
- addressing intangible wrongs and restitution;
- co-parenting, family culture and communication;
- ensuring fairness between family members and inclusion of stake holders;
- reconciliation or emotional restoration.
Mediation at its heart is voluntary. A solution engendered by empowered participants lasts. If the court assigned process does not fully allow the participants to define the problem, create criteria for a livable solution and come up with options, participants should be made full aware of process options outside the court system that will satisfy their conflict and the way they get there.