What is divorce and separation mediation?
Mediation is a private process to bridge differences and reach agreements with your spouse with help from a neutral mediator. Key to mediation is working towards the understanding necessary to make sound agreements together.
Do all mediators work the same?
Each mediator has their own approach and skill sets. While there are different styles of mediation, the goal of all mediation is to reach mutually acceptable agreements that work for both of you. My commitment is to empower you and your spouse to make the best decisions you can under the circumstances. The support I provide is both structural and substantive. I provide ground rules to help keep everyone on track and to keep the process as safe as I can help make it. Before I retired as a lawyer, I was one of Seattle’s foremost divorce attorneys, so I have a pretty good idea how to approach unique situations and what might be possible. In 2017, I became certified as a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst and maintained membership in the certification organization until February 2022. This allows me to provide you with analysis and information to help you make good decisions. With help and guidance, you make the decisions about your future and reach agreements you can count on. We pay attention both to the substantive issues and to the relationships involved.
What can be addressed in mediation?
Because pretty much anything that can be disputed in divorce can be addressed by reaching agreement, most anything in divorce can be addressed through mediation. For divorces, this includes essentially all issues that might arise, including parenting arrangements and financial matters—addressing property and debt, budgets, child support, and spousal maintenance.
Can mediation work if we feel stuck?
Most people choose mediation either because they feel stuck, are not confident how to proceed, or wish the guidance of a professional to ensure they have considered the factors important to planning their post-divorce lives. Mediation is for people who have not yet reached agreement. You do not need mediation if you’re already in agreement.
How long does mediation take?
It usually takes several two-hour sessions to work through the issues. The number of sessions depend on your specific situation, including your needs, the complexity of your circumstances, and your emotional readiness for agreement.
How do we address our finances in divorce mediation?
Your future finances are important. The first step is to ensure that everyone has a good and complete understanding of your financial situation, including the available resources to address everyone’s needs. To streamline that, I provide you with a list of financial information needed and then compile that information into a financial illustration (report). That allows us to efficiently discuss your financial circumstances, understand the options that exist, and 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 decades of experience as a divorce lawyer and mediator.
What is the role of the court in divorce mediation?
Once you and your spouse have reached agreements through mediation, the role of the court is limited to the formalities of approving your agreements and declaring you to be divorced.
Does my divorce lawyer attend the mediation?
No. Mediation works by assisting you to interact together productively to resolve your conflict. The presence of lawyers (and others) typically inhibits this process. Many of my clients do not have lawyers. The questions that divorce presents are rarely legal issues; instead, they are about practical questions concerning finances and co-parenting. I do recommend lawyers at the end of the process, to help you formalize your agreements and streamline the court process.
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, raise considerations that could impact your agreements, float ideas for consideration, and help you consider the range of options for reaching agreement.
Do we need to have lawyers?
Lawyers do not participate in the style of mediation in which I work. Most clients do not need lawyers during the mediation process. This is because we predominantly focus on real-life practical financial and co-parenting solutions that work for both of you. The choice whether or not to consult with a lawyer is always yours. Once the mediation is concluded, I recommend having your legal documents professionally prepared by a lawyer. I routinely refer mediation clients to lawyers to prepare their binding legal documents and, if needed, provide legal advice along the way.
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.
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. My job is to provide a structure, ask questions to ensure clarity, 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 does mediation differ from Collaborative Divorce? Mediation and Collaborative Divorce are different consensual dispute resolution processes. Both processes can achieve excellent results, but the professional support is different. A mediator acts as a neutral facilitator; as a neutral, a mediator cannot provide 1:1 support for any one client. And, of course, mediators cannot give legal advice. In Collaborative Divorce, each client has a Collaborative lawyer who is responsible for that client and co-facilitates the negotiations, often with an additional financial specialist and divorce coach.
Should we try out mediation and, if it does not work, switch to Collaborative Divorce?
I do not recommend that approach. Mediation is highly effective, and it is most effective when everyone can fully commit to making it work. Having one foot out the door reduces the likelihood of success. I therefore strongly recommend doing the work up-front so you can best assess which process will likely be best so you and your spouse reach agreement. Spend the time to make the right choice, and then commit to that.
How does mediation differ from arbitration?
There is a big difference. An arbitrator is essentially a private judge who makes binding decisions after hearing arguments and considering evidence, similar to having a judge make the decisions if you were to go to court. 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 does not decide for you. The mediator’s primary role is to help guide the discussion so it is productive and leads to a voluntary and mutually-acceptable agreement.
When is mediation the wrong choice?
Mediation would not be right for you if:
- You want a lawyer who does the negotiating for you.
- You are unwilling to be transparent and disclose information that would affect decision making, including information about your financial situation.
- You are unwilling to consider your partner’s concerns in reaching agreements.
- You are looking for someone to convince your partner to accept your preferred outcome.
- You are unwilling to refrain from blaming and participate in a conversation that is respectful to all.
- You have already reached agreement and want your legal documents prepared or reviewed.