Mediation: Frequently Asked Questions

What is mediation?

Mediation is a process that allows both parties to reach a fair settlement with a neutral third party, the mediator. It allows the couple to control the timing and can be more economical than a traditional divorce, which oftentimes can be time-consuming and costly.

Mediation offers a win-win solution because both parties are involved in making decisions regarding custody, visitation, property division and all of the other important issues that are a part of divorce.

What are the advantages of mediation?

Mediation is generally more cost-effective and less time-consuming than litigation. It is also often less emotionally charged. As a result, the parties are often times 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 the process work?

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 identify the issues needed to be discussed and the order in which they will be discussed, and then decide what information needs to be gathered and shared. Between the first and later sessions the couple gathers all relevant financial data, and if necessary, the opinions of experts such as appraisers or accountants. 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 should 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 divorce agreement that has been drafted by the mediator, with input from the couple. Independent attorneys will attempt to ensure that the individual legal rights and best interests of each party are met.

What are the costs for divorce mediation?

As mediator, I 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 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 divorcing couple. It takes as long as the parties need or want it to. The time spent in mediation can depend on the complexity of the issues being resolved and the number of issues the parties need the help of the mediator to resolve.

What information should I bring to the first mediation meeting?

The initial meeting is designed to be very low pressure for you. No major decisions have to be made at this meeting. The mediator will be doing most of the work at this meeting, 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?

During the process of mediation, additional information may be gathered from many sources. You may even agree to hire a neutral consultant to assist in your work in mediation with divorce issues requiring special expertise, such as the value of a home or property, a business or a retirement plan, or issues involving your children's special needs. Of course, many clients are able to discuss and agree on such matters in mediation, without any outside assistance.

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 assist divorced parents address changing circumstances?

Absolutely. Parents' and children's needs change. We frequently assist couples in refining or reconsidering parenting or support agreements that once made a great deal of sense, but may now require changes to reflect new circumstances.

Will going to mediation with my spouse jeopardize my divorce settlement?

Not at all. You and your spouse will talk to a mediator until all points of difference have been resolved. The difference is a peaceful resolution rather than a resolution in which both spouses end up angry.