FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
FAQ About Family Law Mediation
What is a mediator?
An impartial third person who helps parties to a dispute reach an agreed resolution of disputes.
What is family law mediation?
A negotiation of an agreed resolution of divorce issues, and navigation of the divorce process, with the help of a mediator.
Is the mediation agreement binding?
Courts recognize mediation as an appropriate alternative for dispute resolution. Once the parties have reached a final agreement and sign a document memorializing the terms, the agreement is a binding and enforceable contract.
Is the mediation process confidential?
With few exceptions, which I will discuss with you, everything you say in mediation will be treated by me as confidential, and I cannot be compelled to disclose what we discuss in mediation. The terms of your final agreement will be contained in a mediated agreement and included in any final order that results from the agreement.
Is mediation required?
What do the parties do in mediation?
In the mediation meeting, or a series of meetings, the two of you will explore options for and negotiate the terms of an agreed resolution that is designed by you to meet the needs of your individual situation.
What does the mediator do in family law mediation?
What I do is help the two of you stay focused in your discussions, make sure that you’re aware of all the topics you will need to consider to move forward, and point each of you toward the sources of information you might need to make intelligent choices on each issue. I can also share with you solutions that other couples have used for a given issue, or ideas that occur to me, with the understanding that you don’t have to adopt any of those. I can also look at any solutions you have already sketched out, to see if there might be concerns based on my experience with other couples. Finally, I can also — if you’d both find it helpful — share with you the range of outcomes you might expect in court on a given issue, just to put a frame around your thinking.
What specifically will we cover?
We will cover all issues that we identify together as relevant to the resolution of your family law situation. For example, if you have children, we’ll talk about the specifics for the children’s schedule with each of you, how you will make decisions for them while living in two separate households, and how you will meet their financial needs. In a divorce mediation, we’ll also discuss how you’re going to divide assets and liabilities, tax filings, and all other financial issues you’ll need to address. (If you’d like a specific outline of the questions that will be considered, please take a look at our “Decisions Checklist”.)
Will the outcome be fair?
If you don’t believe a proposed resolution of an issue is fair, you simply won’t accept those terms. Keep in mind that mediators, unlike judges, don’t make decisions for couples. I will be responsible for asking questions that make sure all issues are addressed, and may offer ideas, but the two of you will remain in charge of the answers. I won’t listen to each of you present your positions, and then declare what you must do, or announce what I think is fair. I’ll be in charge of the process, but you’ll retain the ability to decide if the substance of proposed resolutions are fair for you.
How long is each session?
I am available to work in sessions ranging from two to six hours, depending on how much progress we believe we can make after two hours. I ask you to block out two hours in your schedules — as I do — so we won’t have to stop abruptly in the middle of a discussion. Some people seem to work best in longer sessions, and others start to fade after an hour.
How often do we meet?
I suggest meeting about every two or three weeks. That time period allows each of you to gather the information you need, confer with the people you’re consulting with, have your own discussions, and process the ideas and issues that have come up in the mediation. But scheduling is entirely a function of your needs — you can choose to meet more, or less, frequently, as you both decide.
When will we be finished?
It varies widely, but assuming the two of you can make progress in mediation and deal with some topics in in direct conversations between mediation meetings, on average it takes one to three working sessions to reach agreement on all issues. It may take more sessions if you have children and major issues concerning the parenting arrangement. As you reach agreement on specific issues, I will draft preliminary agreements for your signature to memorialize our progress. When all issues are resolved, I can prepare a mediated agreement for you or your attorneys to use in drafting final papers to be filed with the court.
Who sits at the table?
Most of the discussions will take place with the mediator and couple talking together. There may be times, though, that I’d want to talk with each of you separately. Many couples also speak directly with each other between appointments, which is something we can discuss at our first session, to see if it makes sense for the two of you to try. Whether or not each party will be represented by their respective attorneys at mediation is a decision to be made by the parties with their attorneys.
How much will all this cost?
The cost will really be a function of two things: how complicated your situation is, and to what extent the two of you can talk constructively on your own outside the sessions. Mediation sessions are charged at an hourly rate for the time spent working with you; that same rate applies for time expended in drafting any agreement that you reach, and preparing the mediated agreement.
Can I use a lawyer? Do I need to have a lawyer?
While I am an attorney, I am here to help the two of you work towards an agreement together. I do not represent either (or both) of you, and can’t help either of you with your personal negotiation strategy, or advise you as to what you ultimately should or shouldn’t do. Whether or not you have attorneys appearing with you at mediation is really is up to you and how confident you are in your ability to negotiate for your own needs. I don’t insist you have counsel, but suggest that you each consult with a lawyer during the process if you feel it would make you more comfortable. The purpose of mediation is not to eliminate lawyers, but their role in mediation is to be advisers, rather than act as surrogates.
Will I have to go to Court?
No. If the two of you can work out all the agreements in mediation, you’ll sign papers that will be used to prepare an agreed final order, but you’ll never have to see a Judge, or testify at a trial or hearing.
What should we bring to the first session?
If you can, it’s helpful to prepare a very informal statement of your assets and liabilities (with approximate rather than specific values) for the first session, as if you were sketching out the draft of a net worth statement to apply for a mortgage. If you can’t, don’t be concerned, but if you have the time it helps me understand at a glance what your financial situation is, without my having to ask you questions about assets that you might or might not have. Also, if you have copies of last year’s tax returns, that can be of help in getting me up to speed quickly.
Have an Infrequently Asked Question?
Just give me a call or go to the “Contact” and send me an email.