This information is intended to answer frequently asked questions about mediation and help you to maximize your mediation experience. My goal is to assist you to effectively, comfortably and confidently represent yourself in mediation.
What is divorce mediation?
Mediation is the process of reaching agreement through cooperation and collaboration, with the help of an impartial third party. The mediator meets with the parties, provides financial and legal information, facilitates effective communication, and helps the parties to find satisfying solutions.
In divorce and separation cases, the parties discuss and reach agreement regarding the division of personal property, debt allocation, retirement accounts and benefits, real estate, child custody and visitation, child support, parenting arrangements and spousal support (alimony). Divorce and family disputes are often highly emotional. The mediator helps parties to recognize and deal with these emotions, and overcome emotional barriers to agreement.
Paul A Jozef, J.D., founder of the Center, is a divorce and family mediation specialist . He uses his expertise in law and communications to help parties through the divorce process. He also prepares a legally binding mediated agreement and files all necessary legal documents.
How is mediation different from using attorneys and/or the court?
In mediation, you make fully informed decisions in a supportive, more comfortable environment, with the help and guidance of a caring mediator. You do not surrender control to attorneys or a judge. You move at your own pace, with fairness and cooperation. You do not have the stress of a win-lose court process. You will typically spend a small fraction of the cost of two attorneys using the court system. Compliance with mediated agreements by the parties is approximately 90%, whereas compliance with orders decided by a judge is closer to 50%.
How long will the mediation take and how much will it cost?
We will discuss and reach resolution on all relevant issues and the mediator will draft a comprehensive mediated Agreement. Typically, we will meet for about two hours at a time every week or two until we are done. The mediator’s time is billed at the current hourly rate. The time and cost depend primarily upon the complexity of the issues and the degree of disagreement among the participants.
What if we already agree on lots of issues?
Fantastic! The more you agree on, the less mediation time you will need. You can inform the mediator of what you have agreed to so that it can be included in your mediated Agreement. Also, the standards that make sense to you on certain “easy “ issues can often be applied to resolve other issues.
What are our chances for success?
At the Center for Complete Communication, where both parties are committed to the mediation process, the success rate for reaching resolution is over 90%.
How long does the court process take?
There is a mandatory 60-day waiting period built into the divorce court process, and it takes some time for the judge to sign the final papers once they are submitted. So typically it takes over three months from start to finish.
Will we have to go to court?
No court hearings or appearances should be required. All court action is taken with the consent of both parties. The mediator prepares all court documents and submits them in writing to the court for approval.
Do we have to sell the house?
Although sale of the marital home is one option, there certainly is no requirement that it be sold. One party may transfer their interest in the home to the other in exchange for the value of that interest. Usually the party keeping the home will refinance the home in his/her name within a reasonable time period. Other options are also available. The mediator will help you identify the plan that best meets your needs.
Do children benefit from mediation?
The more peace and cooperation that exists between the parents, the less stress, confusion and pain their children will endure. We strive to establish a foundation for effective communication, and a co-parenting plan that will support the relationship of each parent with the children. Mediation helps to keep peace in the family and give parents the capacity to offer each other mutual respect and consideration. As a divorced father who has co-parented for many years, I know the pain and challenges of divorced parenting, and I can share my insights and secrets of success.
Would if we can’t agree on parenting time or another children’s issue?
Sometimes it seems like there is no middle ground and agreeing to parenting time or some other children’s issue will be impossible. This is what mediation is for. If you participate with the children’s best interests at heart, a resolution will be found, even if much to your surprise. In fact, your finding of a solution together may be the best gift you can give to your children.
What if we don’t reach agreement?
In mediation, all discussions and materials are confidential. If no mediated agreement is reached, evidence of the mediation discussions, mediation materials and any draft agreements will not be admissible in court or any other adversarial proceeding.
Who pays for mediation?
Responsibility for mediation fees is an issue to be decided by mediation participants. You are encouraged to consider sharing fees to some extent so that all will benefit from expeditious and economic resolution.
What about our own attorneys?
You may wish to have any mediated Agreement reviewed by individual legal counsel prior to your signing that Agreement. It is not uncommon for mediating parties to obtain some amount of individual legal advice during the mediation process. Individual legal consultation may help you gain clarity on certain issues, and elevate your comfort and confidence in the final Agreement.
What about utilizing experts?
It may be useful for mediation participants to retain mutually trusted experts. For example, you may want a valuation of real property, personal property or a business, or to consult with an accountant, tax expert or financial planner. Where children’s issues are involved, it may be beneficial to obtain the recommendations of a child psychologist.
What can I do to prepare?
Perhaps the most important thing you can do to prepare is to get clarity on your perspectives, and explore the needs and desires underlying those perspectives. In other words, what do you really want and what underlying needs or desires would be met if you got it?
It is also helpful to consider the likely underlying needs and desires of the other participant. What does the other participant want and what underlying needs or desires would be met if he or she got it? Consider, in fairness, what is the best possible agreement we could reach to satisfy the needs and desires of both participants (and the children)?