What is Mediation?
- Opportunity for couples to amicably negotiate their own divorce terms
- Also applies to custody, support, modification and contempt issues
- Voluntary participation
- Neutral mediator helps guide them, keeps them on track, provides feedback
- Parties, not attorneys or judges, come up with terms of agreement
- More control over future and often less costly than uncontested divorce with two attorneys – definitely less costly than going through litigation
Is Mediation for Me?
- Mediation is not for all couples
- Substance abuse, significant mental health issues, domestic violence, liars, or people who are not comfortable speaking for themselves = not good candidates
- Process depends on good faith performance by parties
- Depends on full disclosure
- Depends on parties trusting each other – great leap of faith
- Depends on equal footing
- Depends on ability to put emotions in check
- Mediation is work – parties, not attorneys or judges, making the decisions
If I’m doing all the work, what do we need a mediator for?
- Mediator provides a safe place to have hard discussions
- Mediator keeps emotions in check – helps focus parties on task
- Mediator makes sure both parties have a voice and are heard.
- Mediator able to provide feedback – not make a decision or pick sides, but provide some guidance in terms of what is typical for the situation, or what different options are available for a certain problem, what questions the judge may have, and how certain agreements might interact with others. Benefit of my experience by pointing out areas of concern or where future problems might arise so can address now.
- Mediator makes sure all areas are discussed, keeps track of agreements
- Alone, parties very susceptible to falling into same old arguments, giving up or just agreeing to anything to get the divorce done – all not good for parties.
What is the process of mediation? How long will it take?
- All work is done with both parties
- Starts with both coming in to discuss mediation (process, my role as mediator, what their involvement consists of, general rules, pros and cons – decide if right for them)
- If want to proceed, enter into agreement and schedule first session. Normally address custody first
- Work on parenting plan
- Next financial https://www.bbesq.com/wp-admin/index.phpaffidavits and financial production ahead of time. CSG run.
- Work on living arrangements/house, then go on to support, then property/debts, then retirement accounts, then insurance, taxes, etc
- Some can get all done in 1-3 sessions, some 7-10 sessions
- Usually one session per week to keep flow going
- Usually email from me summarizing session
- Homework in between sessions
- Can email/call me in between but need to be together
We reached an agreement in mediation, now what?
- Paperwork has to be prepared, served and filed with court if not done already
- Agreement has to be written, reviewed and signed
- Parties can choose to have legal review of agreement
- Remaining divorce paperwork has to be completed and signed
- Request a hearing date from the court
- Attend court – present agreement – canvas by court
- Mediator can be present or not
We didn’t reach an agreement in mediation, now what?
- Hopefully some progress was made. Partial agreements can sometimes be salvaged and the issues for litigation narrowed. Sometimes not.
- At this point mediation ends. The mediator is disqualified from representing either party and cannot be called as a witness. Confidential.
- Parties proceed on their own or retain counsel to file for divorce or other legal action
- Attorney’s can try to continue to work out issues, go to pretrial to get court feedback
- If no resolution, case will be assigned a trial date and the court will hear your matter and render a decision.
Other mediation considerations – what if…?
- What if one party refuses to continue?
- What if one party wants to discuss issues with mediator alone?
- What if the mediator determines that one party acting dishonestly?
- What if need court attention during mediation?
- What if court doesn’t accept agreement?
There are a lot of stories about bad break-ups and messy divorces, divorces that cost a fortune and bring ruin to all involved. Same for custody disputes. Many of those cases are fueled by anger and resentment of one or both parties. It’s often quoted by reasonable – and uninvolved – minds that a divorce is not a war to be won but a problem to be solved. However many parties are more focused on fighting with each other or proving the other wrong than with resolving their differences. But not all parties. There is a silent majority of couples that do view their divorce or custody issue as a problem to be solved. They do not wish to dwell on the past transgressions of the other and instead want to plan for a smooth and fair transition for their future. They do not wish for their children to be involved with the court or court matters. They do not wish to spend their entire savings on attorney’s fees. They are able to be amicable with one another. They do not wish each other harm. They have worked out their parental and financial plans for the most part but need some direction and assistance with the details and the process.
Post-Divorce and Post-Custody Mediation
This is also the case for many post-divorce or post-custody issues that require attention due to a change in circumstances. Perhaps child support needs to be modified or college costs need to be figured out. Maybe someone lost a job and alimony needs to be modified. Maybe several years have passed and the visitation schedule is no longer working for the parties or the children or doesn’t reflect the informal changes that have been made by the parties over the years. These are all issues that can be addressed through mediation as opposed to litigation. Successful mediation can save the parties both time and money; but more importantly, it can improve their relationship and emotional well-being.
Contact Our Family Law Attorneys for Free and Meaningful Phone Consultations
If you are going through a divorce or are struggling with a family legal matter, seek experienced legal help as soon as possible. Our attorneys offer free initial phone consultations, so you can discuss your legal matter and make informed decisions about your case. Call 203-304-9050 (877-286-3414 toll free) or contact us online to schedule your free initial phone consultation.