Mediation is a method couples can use during the process of divorce. With divorce mediation, the couple hires a neutral third party, who will meet with them and attempt to facilitate the couple to reach agreeable terms for the divorce. This third party is known as a mediator and while they will not make any decisions for you concerning your divorce, they will help the parties to come to mutually agreeable terms. Anyone who is going through a divorce or who is considering a divorce should keep mediation in mind as an option. Mediation helps the parties come to an agreement on their own terms and can make the process less stressful for everyone involved. Mediation has proven to be successful for many couples and has many benefits.
- Mediation costs much less than court appearances, hearings, and/or trial.
- Mediation can be used to reach partial or whole settlement agreements.
- Mediation is confidential, subject to certain legal exceptions, with no public record of what goes on in your sessions.
- Mediation lets the parties, rather than the courts, decide the outcome of issues.
- You can have your lawyer present at the mediation to offer input if you wish, and you always have the ability to say you would like to talk something over with your lawyer before making a final decision.
- The couple involved in the mediation are in full control the process.
- The mediation process can improve communication between the two parties.
Is Mediation Right For Your Case?
While mediation is absolutely worth trying for most couples, not every couple belongs in mediation. For example, if there is domestic violence in your relationship, you should consider carefully before you agree to participate — but don’t reject mediation out of hand. Some people who have experienced abuse in their marriages find it empowering to meet on the level playing field of a mediation session; others find there’s too great a chance of replicating the dynamics of the marriage and choose to have a lawyer do their negotiating for them.
It is worth trying, and if you decide it is not a good method for your particular case you can stop mediation and move to a more direct line to get your case resolved by the courts. Mediation is a powerful process and many couples find it to be a valuable asset. If you have questions about whether mediation is a good fit for your unique situation, our attorneys here at Grunyk Family Law can help answer your questions and help you determine the best course of action.
The Mediation Process
Although each mediator operates on his or her own process and follows their own methodology there is a basic process that most will follow:
- A phone call from both parties to the mediator to set up the time and place for the first meeting, as well as explain the process of mediation.
- Both parties will attend the first meeting, and the mediator will go through some basic housekeeping and legal obligations. Confidentiality waivers and a retainer will be signed and future meeting times will be established to avoid delays down the road. At the same time, the mediator will start to build a rapport with you the parties and get to know the basics of your case.
- Future meetings will be held as agreed, and topics impacting the proceedings will be addressed. Issues such as allocation of parenting time and parenting responsibilities, child support, maintenance (formerly known as alimony), allocation of liabilities, the division of property, and other key points will all be discussed so an agreement can be reached.
- Mediation will often continue until resolutions are reached on all key points or until both parties agree that they are at an impasse and no agreement can be reached.
Lawyers in Divorce Mediation
Mediation can be done solely with the couple that is involved in the divorce, but there is also the option to have a legal presence at the meetings as well. “If you are represented by an attorney, the question will arise whether your attorney should attend the divorce mediation with you. This is something you’ll work out with the mediator, your attorney, your spouse, and your spouse’s attorney. Very often, family law mediation sessions involve just the divorcing spouses and the mediator, and lawyers do not attend. This keeps costs down and ensures that you and your spouse do the talking and make the decisions” (Nolo.com) Unless there are special circumstances that make legal representation important for every step of the process, it is often best to try mediation without a lawyer present. It can help make the discussion more open and free-flowing and keep things moving forward at the pace you wish. However, if one party requests to have their lawyer at the mediation meetings then the other party will, of course, want to have their attorney present as well to ensure everything stays fair and balanced.
The legal team here at Grunyk Family Law can help with any and all legal support surrounding attending mediation, as well as conducting the mediation itself. We have years of experience with the mediation process and can act as the neutral third party mediator for both parties. Call us today to learn more!
Negotiating an Agreement
When negotiations are going full force, there can be a lot of back and forth and at times it may seem like the mediation stalls on certain events and points or progress may halt while more information is gathered. This is where the mediator can help keep the mediation process moving forward and keep everyone focused and working towards the final goals. When it comes to the basics of mediation, the three most important things you can do to make your mediation successful are:
- Expect to make compromises
- Try and really listen to the other party and try to see things from their point of view
- Provide a full disclosure of any and all assets and liabilities
“Being open to compromise means that you are not attached to one particular solution — you can’t just put your idea on the table and expect your spouse to accept it. A compromise that works is one that takes both of your interests into account. Consider the possibility that your spouse might have valid ideas as well, and take the time to think them through instead of rejecting them out of hand” (Nolo.com). Simply changing the way you think about the divorce and the mediation process can make it an easier and faster process to get through!
Completing the Agreement
Once your negotiations are complete and a solution has been reached for all the key points, the mediator will write up a memorandum of understanding (MOU). The MOU will then need to be conformed into a formal legal document by one of the attorneys (either an Allocation Judgment and/or Judgment for Dissolution and Marital Settlement Agreement) and entered with the court.
If you are starting the process of filing for domestic relation matters or have questions about whether mediation is a good option for your unique situation, our attorneys here at Grunyk Family Law can help you make the choices that are right for you. Contact us today to learn more about the basics of mediation and how you could benefit from this specialized method.