Mediation is an increasingly popular alternative to long, expensive court battles to resolve family law disputes. Mediation requires transparency and clarity, and we at Reese Law adhere to those principles. The Firm’s mediators pride themselves on helping the parties get to a mutually agreeable resolution through a fair, and open process. Here is a little more about the process and what to expect.
Picking a Mediator
A mediator is selected by both parties or can be selected by one party and the other party agrees. The mediator does not represent either party individually, rather she is a neutral facilitator. Because of this position, it is important for the party contacting a potential mediator to make sure to clarify immediately that mediation services are being sought. The mediator will give information about rates and collect only basic identifying information for purposes of checking to see whether a conflict exists. Also, for purposes of neutrality, the mediator will deliberately decline to hear any details about the dispute at this point because these matters should be saved for the mediation sessions where both parties can be heard at the same time.
Agreeing to Come to An Agreement
Mediation is voluntary. When parties wish to resolve their dispute without court intervention, they may choose and agree to mediate. The mediator will have an orientation session with the parties during which she will review with them the Agreement to Mediate, which includes the information about the process that, by law, the mediator must share. This information includes confidentiality of the proceedings and the express understanding that the mediator is there to guide the parties but not to give legal advice. The Agreement clarifies that the mediation process is transparent so that anything shared with the mediator by one party, can be shared with the other party.
Doing Your Homework
In advance of the mediation, the parties will be asked to do some work to prepare for the mediation itself. Questions of support, asset and debt divisions, and custody require basic information. Each party should gather financial data, details about property owned jointly and separately, and information about the children such as schooling, activities and other issues that may have bearing on custodial arrangements. Part of the mediator’s job is to make sure that no issues fall between the cracks, so some of this preparation will take place after the mediation has begun and between mediation sessions, but it is important to prepare and provide the details that will lead to a successful resolution of actual and potential disputes.
What Happens in the Mediation Itself
At Reese Law, the mediation is held in our offices. Mediations are scheduled in two-hour blocks of time, with the first session including the orientation and setting an agenda for the mediation. The parties decide in which order to take the issues with the suggestions of the mediator to assist in this decision. Attention to detail and ability to facilitate the discussion of disputed issues are the hallmarks of a good mediator.
As the session progresses, the parties address the issues, setting out their agreements and disagreements. The mediator then memorializes the agreements and helps the parties process disagreements, allowing each party to express their perspective. While the parties are asked to remain civil during the sessions, the parties have the opportunity to share their perspective and explore multiple possible solutions and outcomes. The mediator engages in active listening and shares her expertise in family law to help make sure the agreement addresses potential issues in advance. For example, if the parties reach a shared child custody agreement, the mediator might remind the parties that holidays and emergencies do arise and help the parties to decide how to address these events so that there is clarity going forward.
The number of mediation sessions needed is dependent upon the parties and the complexity of their issues, and subsequent sessions will be scheduled until all issues have been resolved. If the parties deem it appropriate and agree, third parties may be consulted whose opinion and expertise can help better guide the parties to finding a resolution on issues.
What Happens After the Mediation
Once the mediation in complete, the mediator will memorialize the agreements reached by the parties and circulate a draft mediated agreement to the parties for review and comments. The mediator will let the parties know that they are entitled to have the Mediated Agreement reviewed by counsel prior to signing. Once finalized and signed, this document is enforceable in court by either party. In the case of a divorce, it will be incorporated into the Final Order of Divorce. Where divorce is not at issue, the agreement is still binding as an enforceable contract.
For decades, Reese Law has been at the forefront of offering mediation services, and successfully helping parties come to lasting, enforceable agreements. To learn more about how Reese Law provides mediation services click here.
DISCLAIMER. The material contained on this Website is not offered, nor should it be construed, as legal advice. The material on our Website has been prepared and published for informational purposes only. You should not act or rely upon information contained in these materials without specifically seeking professional legal advice.