Frequently Asked Questions About Mediation
Many people have questions about mediation due to its differences from traditional divorce proceedings. Below are frequently asked questions about mediation.
What is Mediation?
Mediation is one option to resolve a family law matter through a neutral third party – the mediator. Couples are able to control the timing, and a mediated divorce can be more economical than a traditional divorce proceeding settled by a judge, which often can be prolonged and costly.
Mediation can offer couples a win-win solution because both parties are involved in making decisions together regarding custody, visitation, property division and all the other important issues that are a part of a divorce.
What are the advantages of mediation?
Mediation is generally more cost-effective and less time-consuming than litigation. It is also usually less emotionally charged. As a result, the parties are often able to resolve their disputes and still maintain goodwill between themselves. This is particularly important in marital situations with young children. Parents who can continue to be respectful toward each other after their divorce are certainly better able to face the challenges of raising well-adjusted children.
How does mediation work?
The mediator is a neutral third party. The couple and the mediator meet in a series of mediation sessions, usually one to two hours long. At the first meeting, the couple and the mediator determine issues that should be discussed and in what order. Then they decide what information should be presented and considered during those discussions.
The couple will need to gather necessary financial documents and, if applicable, experts’ opinions, before further mediation sessions take place. Examples of relevant experts might be appraisers, accountants or child psychologists. At subsequent meetings, if necessary, discussions revolve around settlement of the various issues in order to reach an agreement. The mediator assists by providing information about the court system and common ways divorce issues are resolved.
When an agreement has been reached on all issues, which sometimes happens in the first meeting, the mediator drafts the agreement for review by each of the parties and their attorneys, if any.
If the mediator is a lawyer, why does each party need to seek the advice of another lawyer?
Having two independent attorneys, one for each spouse, review the joint agreements provides the appropriate checks and balances on the agreement that has been drafted, with input from the couple. Independent attorneys will attempt to ensure that the individual legal rights and best interests of each party are met as the mediator is functioning as a neutral third party and is not representing either client.
What are the costs for divorce mediation?
We have an hourly fee for time spent meeting with you and your spouse, and time spent on the telephone, emails or preparing documents. Payment is due prior to the preparation of any agreements or documents that have been requested. There is a $215 court filing fee for a divorce petition. Parents must each take a court-approved parenting class prior to filing for a court date.
In addition to the cost of mediation, it may be necessary for at least one of the parties to retain an attorney for the divorce proceedings.
How long does mediation take?
This depends upon the situation and the individuals involved. It takes as long as the parties need or want. The time spent in mediation can depend on the complexity of the issues being resolved and the number of issues the parties need to resolve.
What information should I bring to the first mediation meeting?
The initial meeting is designed to be very low pressure. No major decisions have to be made at this meeting, though they can be. The mediator will be doing most of the work, including indicating the information that you need to gather for your divorce. It may be helpful to start collecting financial documentation, and you can bring this to the first meeting if you wish.
How do we determine more complex issues?
Research, information-gathering, and solicitation of appropriate experts’ opinions will be important for deciding high-stakes, complex matters. Some reach agreements on their own through mediation, without outside assistance. Others may find it beneficial to hire neutral consultants to advise on home values, business operations and succession plans, retirement accounts, and children’s special needs.
Do we need to file for divorce or paternity before coming to mediation?
No. You do not need to file a divorce or paternity case with the court before coming to mediation, although you may choose to do so.
Can mediation help divorced parents address changing circumstances?
Yes. Parents’ and children’s needs change. We frequently assist couples in refining parenting plans or reconsidering support agreements that once fit their situation, but may now require changes to reflect new circumstances.
Will going to mediation with my spouse jeopardize my divorce settlement?
No. You and your spouse will talk to a mediator until all points of difference have been resolved.