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Frequently Asked Questions
This information is provided to assist you in determining if mediation is right for your situation. the appropriate way for you to reach agreements in the settlement of your divorce, parenting issues, or other family matters. You may have questions about your particular situation and we encourage you to contact us to address your individual situation.
What is mediation?
Mediation is an efficient and cost effective process designed to help people reach the best possible agreements for the parties involved. A mediator is a neutral third party who guides the parties though the process of gathering all pertinent information, and keeping negotiations focused on the important issues to be resolved. By maintaining civil and amicable discussions, negotiations are more productive. Mediation is particularly beneficial in dealing with child custody and co parenting issues.
Does mediation really work?
The short answer is YES.... Research shows when you compare couples who have mediated their divorce with couples who go through an adversarial litigated divorce, the mediation couples are more likely to be satisfied with the process and the results. They spent less time and money, and far less conflict. Most importantly, they had more control over their divorce, allowing them to move forward with life.
Is mediation confidential?
Mediation is a private and safe place for difficult discussions. You will be asked to sign a confidentiality agreement before beginning mediation. The mediator is bound by law to keep confidential what is discussed in mediation.
How do I select a mediator?
As with any professional you should obtain the following information:
Training, experience, and background of the mediator
Experience or knowledge in mediating the type of issues you have
Fees charged and how fees are divided among the parties to the mediation
Most important is whether you are comfortable with the mediator's style and approach to the process.
Is a mediated agreement binding?
The short answer is Yes.
If you are involved in any conflict, such as divorce or another family issue, as well as business or employment, any agreement reached during mediation can be filed in court by your attorney. You should speak with your attorney about your filing options. The court generally reviews your mediated agreement to assure that it conforms to established legal standards. Once the court approves your agreement it is binding.
If your agreement is not filed in court, but is agreed to and signed by all parties it is then considered to be a contract. Depending on the nature of the agreement, if there is a breach of that contract, you may be able to file a claim with the court.
If I use mediation, will I need to go to court?
In the case of a Mediated divorce the answer is generally, YES BUT...
Divorce is a legal matter and must be approved by the court. How much time you actually spend in court depends on your ability to resolve your issues before you get to court. If you and your spouse can reach a mutual agreement on all of the important issues, it is likely you will only have to make a brief court appearance.
In other cases in may not be necessary to go to court because a signed agreement that is the product of your mediation can become a binding contract as described above.
Will I need a lawyer if I use mediation?
Mediation is a process to resolve disputes without the typical litigation process there by avoiding the necessity of an attorney.
In the case of divorce, you are not required to have an attorney to go to court.
If the divorce is uncontested, couples are allowed to do their own divorce, known as Pro Se divorce.
While it is not required, some couples prefer to retain an attorney. A lawyer can provide you with guidance and legal counsel as well as draft documents for filing with the court. However by using mediation it is likely you would use far fewer legal services.
If your mediator is also a practicing attorney, that mediator is not acting as a lawyer and cannot represent either person in their divorce.
How long will mediation take?
Because every situation is different, it is hard to predict exactly how long your mediation would last. For example, a full divorce, including custody issues, division of assets and liabilities, would take between three and eight sessions. In addition, there is time to prepare a Memorandum of Understanding, outlining all the agreements you reach through the mediation process.
How long are the sessions?
Generally, mediation sessions are scheduled to last from 1 to 2 hours, depending on your needs and available time. Some couples prefer longer sessions while others find that shorter sessions are more productive.
Will we meet weekly with the mediator?
At the initial mediation session, you will identify the issues that need to be decided, how urgent these decisions are, and how quickly you wish to proceed. At that meeting you will determine your scheduled meetings.
Who is present at the mediation session?
All parties and the mediator will be present at each mediation session. On occasion, it may be beneficial for the mediator to meet individually with the parties, speaking privately and confidentially.
What information must I disclose to the mediator?
All information pertinent to the issues at hand must be disclosed, by all parties, to the mediator. That information will only be shared with the parties in the mediation. If either party cannot trust that they are negotiating based on true and complete information, the process will not work.
In the case of divorce, all financial information must be disclosed. You will fill out the same forms required by the courts. These disclosures include all incomes, expenses, assets, liabilities, retirement funds and other financial information that is required by the courts in a divorce. Should information be withheld during the mediation process, any agreement reached may not be valid. You will be required by state law to sign a sworn financial affidavit when you file your divorce papers with the court.
What is discussed during the mediation?
All pertinent issues will be discussed.
In a typical divorce mediation the following issues must be addressed and agreed upon in order to write an agreement called a Memorandum of Understanding to be submitted to the court.
Children - Parenting responsibility and time, living arrangements, legal and physical custody, insurance, education, support and other issues.
Incomes and Expenses
Assets and Debts - How these will these be apportioned
Property - Marital home, cars, other personal property
Spousal Support - Whether there will be spousal support, in what amount and for how long.
Insurance and Medical Expenses
How much will mediation cost?
Your mediation costs will be based on an hourly fee and initial retainer. The retainer is applied to time spent by your mediator to review documents, make telephone calls, consult with attorneys or other advisors as necessary in the process of drafting the your final agreement “Memorandum of Understanding”.
Any unused portion will be applied to the last session.
The cost of mediation is usually significantly less than the cost to retain an attorney to represent you. Keep in mind, your spouse will need to retain an attorney also, if you decide to go that way.
Can I use mediation to resolve a part of my divorce settlement if I have begun litigation of my divorce?
Yes, many couples begin divorce through litigation and then decide that It would be beneficial to mediate a portion of the divorce settlement such as the parenting schedule and parenting issues.
Can mediation help with any type of dispute?
Mediation is appropriate for most any dispute. While the following is not exhaustive, it represents common areas that mediation can assist in resolving:
Employer - Employee Mediation
Neighbor - Neighbor Mediation
Landlord - Tenant Mediation
Post-Decree Mediation (change of custody, support, parenting time, college contribution)
Civil Union Mediation
Parentage Mediation (unmarried parents)
Elder Care Mediation
Contact S. M. Edwards & Associates LLC, to find out how mediation can save you time and money.
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