Do mediation papers not filed in court have to be followed?

Dear Ms. Allison: The non-custodial parent and I went to mediation and couldn’t agree on things. My old lawyer and the mediator told me to just the sign papers agreeing to what the non-custodial wanted because a judge would just give the non-custodial what he wanted. Afterwards, I found a new lawyer and asked questions. I learned what the old lawyer and mediator told me was not true. I had a draft from the mediation that was signed but when non-custodian’s lawyer told me to the sign the final papers I said no because I don’t agree to them. So, we technically have nothing filed in the courts. Just the draft mediation papers that were never signed by a judge or court stamped. No Name in Tulsa, Oklahoma

Dear No Name:

Judges do not sign mediation agreements. Mediations are conducted to create OUT OF COURT settlements between the disputing parties. Once the settlement is agreed in mediation, the judge may make rulings based on the agreement. Understand that the court rulings are separate from the mediation agreement.

Whether you can undo what you have already agreed to is questionable. The other side will most likely move to compel you to comply with the agreement and then the Judge will truly be involved.

The fact that you are asking me questions would imply a lack of confidence in your new lawyer. What you want to do is not simplistic. I strongly advise you get yourself to the most experienced divorce lawyer you can find, because you will need depth of expertise. Even then, you may not be able set aside the mediation agreement.

It might be that your mediation was not as successful as you hoped because there were other issues needing to be addressed. Often, solutions are available but you and those around your table are unaware they are possible. In future, please know that you can hire a mediator with many years of experience and/or a specialist to advise you during the mediation, such as your trust and tax attorney, child’s school counselor, or a financial advisor.

Settlement agreements should never be entered into lightly. It is very important for any settlement or mediated agreement to be real because, usually, regret is not able to be remedied.

That’s your question, Asked and Answered. My best to you,

Gale Allison

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