- what is mediation?
Mediation is a process which fosters cooperation and communication between 2 or more people going through a crisis. In mediation, the parties work with a neutral, trained professional to discuss and define all the issues that need to be addressed. Together, the parties then identify and explore their options, which allows them to take control of their lives by making their own informed decisions. Mediation can not only help people work through their separation/divorce but with other interpersonal conflicts as well.
- why would I choose mediation over a litigated divorce?
Mediation is a non-adversarial, therefore faster and less expensive process through which the parties maintain control of the decisions affecting their lives and those of their children. In litigation, the parties do not get together and all negotiations between them are funneled through those respective attorneys, prolonging the process and increasing the costs. Since the job of each lawyer is one sided, this process fosters a more adversarial and antagonistic approach to separation and divorce.
- are you a lawyer as well as a mediator?
People often ask this question because they worry about whether they will need the protection of a lawyer during the mediation process. I, myself, am not a lawyer, but even if I were, it would be unethical to dispense legal advice or take sides while functioning as a mediator. My job as mediator is to remain neutral while making sure that the parties reach an agreement that is fair to all and that the whole family can live with going forward.
- if we choose mediation, do we still need to have lawyers?
I do recommend that each of you have a “consulting attorney” with whom you can discuss certain questions or points that may arise during the process and who can review the Agreement from your point of view before it becomes a legal document. That said, having a consulting attorney is a personal choice and not necessary to a successful mediation process.
- can you recommend attorneys to us?
Yes I work with attorneys that are familiar with the mediation process and can give you several references from which to choose.
- my husband and I can’t talk without getting annoyed at each other, so how can we possibly sit through a mediation?
Mediation is a conversation between the parties and the mediator. You will be in the same room, but as the mediator, I will take turns listening to each of you and help you clearly articulate your thoughts and your needs to one another. There is give and take; and many couples find that during this process they begin to communicate with each other better than they have in a long time.
- my spouse and I seem to disagree on everything – how can we possibly come to a mutually satisfying agreement?
If you and your spouse agreed on everything, you would probably not be separating. My role is to help you each define your personal needs and those of your family. We will explore multiple options that will meet those needs and create an agreement that will allow you to move forward with your lives.
- how often do we have to meet?
Some people prefer to meet weekly, others twice a month. The number and frequency of sessions can be tailored to fit your schedule.
- how long are the sessions and how many sessions will we need?
Sessions usually last 1 to 2 hours. The number of sessions depends on the number of issues that need to be worked out. A couple with children who own a home, have retirement plans and some money in different bank accounts will need approximately 4-8 sessions to complete their agreement.
- what happens in the first session?
In the first session, after explaining the process of mediation, I will start our conversation by gathering more specific information about your family, what your goals are and what issues are most pressing for each of you. I will also give you some printed documentation which lists all the different issues that need to be taken into account in view of your separation/divorce.
- do we need to prepare anything special for the first session?
After an appointment for the first session has been made, I will email you a questionnaire which will include basic information that you should bring with you. Completing the questionnaire prior to the first session will save time when you first come in.
- how are we supposed to know what has to be in the separation/divorce agreement?
As mediator, that is part of my job. I will make sure that we cover all the issues that need to be addressed and listed in your Agreement based on your particular family/personal situation. Some of these include a parenting agreement, child support, spousal support and division of property.
- what if we are not sure of what arrangement we want to make as far as each of us having the children?
That is a good question; it is sometimes difficult to know what will work best. Some parents choose to try out a parenting schedule while working out other issues. This allows them to modify the arrangement over the course of a few weeks or months and determine what works best for their family.
- what is the difference between a parenting and a custody agreement?
A Parenting Agreement will describe how you choose to share weekly time and holidays with your children. A Custody Agreement will outline how you make major decisions regarding them.
- what if we sign a divorce agreement and after a while decide that the custody agreement we made does not work for us?
Many couples find that as the family evolves and the children grow, agreements need to be adjusted. You may choose to do this between the two of you or return to mediation for a couple of sessions to work out a new parenting plan. In some cases, parents choose to have it in writing and even notarized.
- what if one of us wants to stay in the house and both of us have money in the house?
There are several options that we can explore together. In addition we can look at different ways you may have to compensate the spouse moving out in the near or distant future.
- how do we decide now who is going to pay what for college, with our children being so young?
This, too, is a topic whose options we can explore together. Alternatively, we can include in your agreement at what point the two of you will get together to discuss this.
- what is the free half hour consultation you offer?
At this stressful time in your life, you want to be sure that you are comfortable with whomever you choose to work with. I offer a free half hour consultation to explain the process of mediation and answer any questions you may have. This also gives us an opportunity to meet, talk and get a feel for how it will be to work with one another.
- do you charge a retainer – how do your fees work?
I do not charge a retainer. My fees are hourly based on the time spent in session with me. There is also a fee to prepare the document which will serve as the basis for your divorce and include all the issues that you will have worked out during the mediation.
- we are post-divorce but still having difficulties communicating about the children and arguing about financial questions – can we return to mediation for that?
Yes, mediation is a good place for both of you to talk about those difficulties and explore how you might want to modify your previous arrangement by putting in place different solutions to some of those issues. For example, if you are running into problems picking up and dropping off the children at each other’s homes, you may choose to modify the schedule slightly to have the transition take place at school. Sometimes a very small change will have a very big effect and make both your lives much easier.
Divorce mediation is not about winning or losing. It is about crafting an agreement that all parties involved, including the children, can live with.