IS MEDIATION RIGHT FOR ME?
Every couple is different, and there is no right or wrong way to come into mediation. Here are three mediation stories that show a range of experiences with mediation.
WHAT IS MEDIATION?
Mediation is a voluntary process, intended to create complete, final, sustainable and legally enforceable agreements. There are many styles of mediation; the type of mediation I offer is an alternative to litigation. Clients in mediation will only submit final, agreed orders to the court, and will not be asking the court to decide the terms of the divorce for them.
We will meet periodically for about two hours per session. You and your spouse will usually be in the same room. If we are working with a therapist, we will meet together most of the time, although there may be times when you meet with the therapist separately or with me separately.
It is essential that you provide complete, accurate and timely information about your needs, concerns, finances, and other relevant issues. I assume that I may share whatever you tell me with your spouse, unless you tell me otherwise.
WHAT DOES A MEDIATOR DO?
As mediator, I will work with you to generate complete agreements needed to complete your family law matter. I will assist both of you with gathering information needed to make informed decisions, serve as your memory from session to session to help you maintain the continuity of your thoughts, brainstorm with you, evaluate with you various options, guide you through implementation, and find ways to resolve and manage conflict throughout.
While I am licensed as an attorney, I will not act as an attorney for either of you. This means that I will not provide either of you with legal advice, nor will I advocate for either of you. My efforts are focused on helping you efficiently make informed, workable and long-lasting agreements.
As part of the process, I memorialize final agreements in agreed court orders. I will draft commonly used pleadings. I do not draft orders to transfer 401K or similar assets, and will give you a referral to attorneys who do prepare such orders. While I cannot file agreed orders with the court on your behalf, I can assist you in filing them yourselves.
Another professional with expertise in child development, law, finances, or mental health may be part of this process as a co-mediator, consultant or therapist. You will be responsible for the fees of any other professional, and those services will be covered by a separate contract among the two of you and the professional. I receive no referral fee from any other professional, nor do I have a fee-splitting arrangement with any other professional.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE?
Delay and conflict will lengthen the mediation process; prompt furnishing of accurate, complete information, and a willingness to consider the other’s point of view will shorten the process. In a typical mediation, we would need five to eight meetings to create complete legal papers encapsulating financial and parenting agreements. This is a guideline only.
CAN I HAVE AN ATTORNEY? MUST I HAVE AN ATTORNEY?
You should have an attorney. Attorneys provide legal information, brainstorm, review written agreements, and sometimes participate in mediation sessions. Because the way we use attorneys is particular to mediation, your attorney should be familiar with and supportive of mediation. I will provide you with a list of attorneys whom I find reliably add value to mediation, and will not pull the case into litigation.
My work with you as a mediator cannot be a substitute for legal advice or representation. Many clients find it helpful to speak with an attorney toward the start of the mediation process, and return to the attorney for advice as the final settlement takes shape. Attorneys typically review the final written papers to confirm that they match the agreed settlement.
DO I NEED A FINANCIAL SPECIALIST?
There are many types of financial specialists. You may use a financial specialist to value an asset such as a business or pension; give an opinion as to the community or separate nature of an asset; support you in developing your budget; or provide a detailed illustration of how a particular division would evolve over time. You will discuss with the mediator whether and how to bring in a financial specialist.
DO I NEED A CHILD SPECIALIST?
Child specialists offer a perspective of child development, and particularly how children navigate the transition into two households. Combining that perspective with parents’ knowledge of their particular children can provide parents assurance that they are minimizing disruption to their children.
HOW DOES MEDIATION FIT WITH THE LEGAL PROCESS?
Mediated agreements are typically entered with the court. Once you have created a mediated agreement outside of court, the legal process is reduced to a series of formalities. The first formality is to file a petition for dissolution or legal separation. The petition can be filed at the start of mediation, after you have signed off on the final settlement, or anywhere in between. We will discuss when to file, as there can be reasons to file at a specific time.
Three months or so after filing, you will enter your final papers with the court. Final papers must include a decree, and findings to support the decree. The financial settlement will be described within the decree, or in a private contract. If you have dependent children, the final papers will also include a parenting plan and order of child support.
If you are working with attorneys, then I am available to write up your legal pleadings for your attorneys to review with you. I have constraints on my ability to draft your pleadings if you do not have attorneys to review them.
WHAT IF I HAVE ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS?
Mediation offers a way for you to address the practical, legal and emotional aspects of separation and divorce. Please bring in your questions and comments regarding mediation for us to discuss during our first meeting. I look forward to meeting with you soon.