FAQs About Mediation
The mediator is a neutral party whose function is to help negotiations by identifying issues, exploring potential solutions and advising the parties of all matters that should be addressed in a final divorce agreement. The result is an expedited, less expensive divorce where parties can part ways under friendly terms.
What is Divorce/Family Mediation?
Mediation is a process in which separated couples define their differences, explore their interests, evaluate possible solutions, and create written agreements.
Mediation can occur before, during, and after a separation and/or divorce.
Mediators are neutral and do not represent any one point of view. They do not decide who is right or wrong but help parties communicate in an informal and confidential setting.
The mediation sessions are focused on the couple making agreements about things like: decision making about the children, parent-to-parent communication, parent-child contact schedules, division of property and debt, support of spouse and/or children, tax issues, etc.
Should I Consider Mediation?
Yes, if you prefer to make your own decisions together regarding your separation and/or divorce rather then having lawyers negotiate for you.
Yes, if you would like to work out arrangements in a setting more private and confidential than Family Court, reduce conflict and attempt to come to some mutual decisions with the other party.
Is Mediation for Everyone?
Mediation does not work in cases when one or both parties wish to use the separation or divorce process to “punish” or “get even” with the other.
If either party feels fearful or extremely intimidated by the other, because of past or current psychological or physical abuse, then mediation is not appropriate.
If either party is engaging in habitual substance abuse (such as alcohol or drugs), mediation may not be helpful. People who are dependent upon regular substance abuse often have difficulties keeping their agreements, thus mediation in these cases frequently fails.
What Does the Mediator Do?
The mediator provides a setting and structure where each person can fully describe his or her own point of view.
The mediator helps parties along by asking relevant questions. This helps each person to clarify what specific issues they feel are important. There is an opportunity to identify and compare possible solutions and outcomes.
The mediator will draft a memo reflecting your agreements. You may choose to bring this document to attorneys and/or submit the document directly to the Court for approval and to be ordered by a Judge.
What are the Benefits of Going to Mediation?
- Mediation provides a structure at a time when communication is often difficult.
- Parents learn to make the change from being conflicting spouses to cooperating individuals.
- Agreements made in mediation are usually more workable, thus less likely to return to Court as opposed to arrangements ordered by a Judge.
- Mediation is often much less expensive than other processes of negotiation and resolution.
How Long Does it Take and What is the Cost?
Most mediation sessions are three hours long.
The number of sessions parents may need depends on their level of conflict and the number of issues they want to address. Most parties are able to resolve some or all of their issues in two to six sessions.
Most mediators charge on an hourly basis, or a half/full day rate.
Can I Still Have an Attorney?
Yes. Consulting with an attorney is always advisable when making legal decisions. Although the mediators, who are also attorneys, can give you information about the legal process and legal information about your case, mediators cannot give legal advice.
Although you are certainly not required to get legal advice, many people find that they benefit from obtaining legal counsel before, during or upon completion of the mediation process. Parties often choose to have separate attorneys review their final written agreements made in mediation.
How Does Mediation Differ from Going to Court?
Separating couples often desire a fair and cooperative solution, one without the financial and emotional cost of a contested hearing.
Mediation is a voluntary and private means of resolving the issues surrounding separation and divorce. Mediators can spend more time with you both and may produce documents that contain great detail.
The end result of the mediation sessions is a written document that clearly defines and outlines the agreements that have been reached.
What if We Can’t Reach an Agreement on All of Our Issues?
If you are able to agree on some, but not all issues, the things that you do agree upon can be written up in a document for you to take to a lawyer for review. If you choose not to use an attorney, you can submit the document directly to the Court for approval.
You can also look to other means of resolving the remaining contested issues such as using an attorney’s assistance in negotiation and/or asking the Court to schedule a hearing to resolve the remaining issues.
A Mediator Should
- Be impartial and neutral.
- Maintain confidentiality and explain any exceptions at the beginning of the process.
- Make clear that the process is voluntary and that any party, including the mediator, may withdraw at any time for any reason.
- Make sure the mediation process feels safe and non-threatening.
- Make sure all the issues are considered.
- Be attentive to the needs of all other interested parties such as the children in the family.
- Assist parties in the most efficient use of time in reaching solutions.
- Be familiar with relevant legal issues in the dispute.
- Recommend legal, financial, or therapeutic counseling when necessary.
- Work for a fair and durable agreement for all parties.
In Mediation You Should Feel
- Comfortable talking with your mediator.
- That the mediator is treating both sides fairly and listening to both sides.
- Better able to negotiate with the other party when the mediator is present.
- That you are freely involved in the process and assisted in exploring options for solutions.
- That any written agreement accurately expresses the work done in mediation.