What is mediation?
Mediation is a private process to bridge differences and reach agreements with help from a neutral mediator. You and your spouse work with the mediator towards agreement. The goal of mediation is to reach mutually acceptable agreements that work for both of you. With help and guidance, you make the decisions about your future. You control the outcome.
What can be addressed in mediation?
Anything that can be addressed with an agreement can be addressed through mediation. For divorces, this includes almost everything so long as you can work in the same room together with assistance, including agreements on parenting arrangements and financial matters—dividing property and debt, budgets, child support, and spousal maintenance.
What style of mediation do you use?
I use a facilitative form of mediation, where we work together in the same room to address questions based on your priorities and the real-world implications of alternative decisions. In the style of mediation I use, lawyers are not present in the room but are available to provide you with advice as needed. Lawyers also prepare the legal paperwork that gives effect to your agreements. My job is to provide a structure, make sure you have addressed what needs to be addressed, help keep the conversation on track, and transmit the details of your agreements to your lawyers. Most clients find this to be a safe, efficient, and effective method for reaching agreements in a private and unpressured environment.
How do we address our finances in divorce mediation?
Most clients want to make sure that their future finances will work. To do that, it’s important that each of you have a good understanding of all your resources and the needs that need to be addressed. I provide you with a list of financial documents to provide, and compile that information into a financial illustration (report). Doing so allows us to efficiently discuss your financial circumstances, understand the implications of different choices you have, and thereby help you to reach agreements. Because the finances can be so important in structuring secure post-divorce futures, I have obtained a Certified Financial Divorce Analyst® certification to supplement my years of experience as a divorce lawyer and mediator.
How long does mediation last?
I schedule mediation sessions that last about 2 hours. Going longer tends to be too much. It usually takes several sessions to work through the issues. The exact amount time needed depends on your needs and the complexity of your circumstances.
Since you are a lawyer, can you give us legal advice when working as mediator?
Mediators are not allowed to give legal advice. I do provide general information that will help you reach agreement, and raise considerations that could impact your agreements, and help you consider the range of options for reaching agreement.
Do we need to have lawyers?
In the style of mediation I use, most clients do not have lawyers. The reason is because we predominantly focus on real-life practical solutions instead of legal arguments. The choice whether or not to consult with a lawyer is always yours. I often refer mediation clients to lawyers who can prepare their legal documents, and, as desired, provide legal advice.
Are the fees for mediation shared equally?
That varies depending on individual preferences. Sometimes mediation fees are paid from current income or joint funds. Other times, they’re allocated differently. Many people find it useful to have some financial stake in the process to motivate themselves to work productively through a divorce or separation.
How does mediation differ from Collaborative Divorce? The mediator acts as a neutral facilitator. To maintain impartiality, a mediator cannot provide too much individualized support to any one client without losing the appearance of neutrality. Mediators are prohibited from giving legal advice. In Collaborative Divorce, each client has a Collaborative lawyer who co-facilitates the negotiations and is trained in mediation techniques. The lawyers can provide their own client with individualized assistance, negotiation coaching, and legal advice. According to a study, about 97% of Collaborative Divorces do not have a mediator involved. Read more about Collaborative Divorce.
Should we try out mediation and, if it does not work, switch to Collaborative Divorce?
Mediation is highly effective. Like any such process, it is most effective when everyone can commit to making it work. Therefore, having an “easy out” to another process probably reduces the likelihood of success. I recommend doing the work up-front to choose the process that will most likely help you and your spouse reach agreement—spending the time to make the right choice will enhance the likelihood of a successful outcome (and a more satisfactory process).
How does mediation differ from arbitration?
In mediation you make your own decisions for your future; in arbitration you do not. In arbitration, you turn over the decision-making to an arbitrator. An arbitrator is essentially a private judge who makes binding decisions, similar to having a judge make the decisions if you were to go to court. In an arbitration, you present evidence and make arguments. Arbitration decisions typically cannot be appealed.
In mediation, you make your own important decisions about your future. You decide based on what makes sense to you. The mediator’s role is limited to helping guide the discussion so it is productive and leads to a voluntary and mutually-acceptable agreement. A mediator will not make the decisions for you.