Mediation is an effective tool to resolve marriage, family and personal disputes that need to be resolved. Any dispute can be mediated if participants are willing.
Divorce is one occasion where mediation can save time and money, allowing you to talk directly with another party to resolve issues. Unavoidable divorce is near the top of the list of stressful and life-altering events. The anger and betrayal, or the loss of love and happiness can trigger a dread of future unknowns. Receiving guidance in resolving the necessary issues can be invaluable during a time like this. We encourage participants to maintain review their agreements with an attorney.
Most importantly, Blair Counseling and Mediation seeks to resolve issues in the best interest of children. Children are most affected by an adversarial and antagonistic process. Blair Counseling and Mediation seeks to reduce stress on the family.
The role of the mediator is to provide a neutral setting to understand underlying interests and priorities of each party of a dispute and clarify communication between them. The goal of mediation is to create options and customize resolutions in a cost-effective way, and to reduce stress on the family. The agreements are mutual and no party should feel coerced or pressured into agreement. The mediator will document agreements that can be submitted to your lawyer. The agreements remain non-binding until a lawyer prepares the final legal documents and they are approved by the court.
Decisions that have to be made in a divorce process include (but are not limited to) parenting, custody, division of assets/liabilities, child and spousal support, insurance, and tax filing. Blair Counseling and Mediation can mediate all or part of a dispute.
After mediation is completed, the Memorandum of Understanding can be sent to your attorney for review. An attorney will prepare the final document, which is called a Separation Agreement, Settlement Agreement, or some variation of this legal document, for filing in court. Depending on your preference and situation, either you or the attorney may file the papers for divorce.
Unless you have been ordered to mediation by the court, your attendance is voluntary. Whether or not the court has ordered you to attend mediation, you are never under an obligation to come to an agreement. Agreement is always voluntary. You may end mediation at any time or the mediator may end mediation if he does not think it is productive.
All financial information must be disclosed as part of the mediation process. This information is required by the courts and is important for informed decision making. The mediator will work with you to determine your income, expenses, assets, liabilities, retirement funds and other financial information that is required. Should information be withheld during the mediation process, any agreement reached may not be valid.
You and your spouse or partner will both be present at the mediation session. The mediator will often choose to speak with each of you privately and confidentially at least once during the mediation process and sometimes more often. On occasion, people choose to include their attorneys in the mediation sessions, or the mediator may ask that the attorneys be present. Sometimes, children or teenagers may be present for certain discussions. These choices are made with the mediator.
All parties to a dispute must be willing to participate and capable of informed decision-making. All parties must provide full disclosure of information. Each party must be comfortable disagreeing with another party in the same room and not fear retaliation. Neither party must be subject to domestic violence or threats.
Your mediation costs will be based on an hourly fee of $180 that is split between each party. This fee will be charged for all mediation sessions and services, including time spent by the mediator in drafting documents. The cost of mediation is generally less than if you each hired lawyers to represent you in your divorce without using mediation.
At the initial mediation session, you will begin to identify the issues that need to be decided in your particular situation. What these issues are, how urgent the decisions are, how quickly you are able to gather the required information, and how fast you wish to proceed will determine the schedule you set to meet with the mediator. Often, one, two or even more weeks may elapse between sessions. You may meet with the mediator over the course of a month or several months. In situations where couples have no children and no property, a shorter time frame and fewer sessions may be sufficient.
Generally, mediation sessions are scheduled to last from one and a half to two hours, depending on the couple’s needs and available time. Some couples prefer longer sessions while others find that shorter sessions are more productive. In certain circumstances, half or full day sessions may occur.
Because each separation and divorce is different, it is hard to predict exactly how long your mediation will last. In general, a couple who must make decisions about both parenting and financial issues may meet with a mediator for three to eight sessions. This varies depending on how complex the issues are how well the couple is able to work together to make the decisions that need to be made.
In addition to meeting with the couple, the mediator will take time to prepare a Memorandum of Understanding, which outlines all of the agreements that have been reached through the mediation process. You will want to have an attorney draft the final legal Agreement that is filed with the court when you file for divorce.
If you are involved in a divorce or another family issue that is filed in court, any agreement you reach will be filed with the court. You should speak with your lawyer about how this works and what your options are. The court generally reviews the agreement to assure that it conforms to the standards that have been established, such as the child support guidelines and, where it doesn’t, looks at what special circumstances exist.
If your dispute is not filed in court, the agreement is usually considered to be a contract. Depending on the nature of the agreement and the dispute, if there is a breach of the contract, you may be able to file a claim with the court.
A lawyer can advise you on your particular situation.
Consulting with an attorney at some point during the mediation process to make sure you fully understand your legal rights is highly recommended. However, by using mediation, it is likely that you will use fewer legal services and that those you use will be different than if you did not use mediation. Unlike a mediator, a lawyer can answer legal questions about how the law applies to your specific situation, what the likely outcome in court would be, and can draft documents for filing with the court.
If you are divorcing, you will have to file for divorce in court whether or not you use mediation. However, if you are able to reach a mutually agreeable resolution to all of the property, financial, custody, parenting and other issues that you must resolve, and the court accepts your settlement, it is likely that your court experience will be quite limited. Generally, the more you do outside of the court to decide how you want to handle your divorce, the better.
Most divorce and family mediators have completed a forty-hour divorce and family mediation training course and pursue advanced continuing education. Mediators should have advanced degrees in law, psychology, or other areas relevant to working with families.
Blair Counseling and Mediation can mediate all or part of the following process:
The initial contact includes a call from one person for information, speaking with the other person involved, and scheduling a meeting.
Session one includes one separate meeting for an orientation to mediation process, a review of issues to be addressed in mediation, and an introduction to forms and information required.
Subsequent sessions are usually conjoint (but can be separate) to resolve:
The final session reviews the memorandum of understanding and then the agreements are sent to lawyers for review and drafting into legal document for filing. Both parties will be encouraged to seek advice throughout the process from attorneys, accountants, counselors, etc. so accurate information is available. The mediator does not act in any of these roles.