I am an attorney experienced in divorce law and trained in Mediation. I believe that for many couples, the mediation process offers a viable alternative to traditional divorce litigation. Through mediation, divorcing and separating couples create a framework for themselves with professional assistance. Within this framework, couples work out fair arrangements for their children (if any), their ongoing financial rights and responsibilities, and a division of their personal and real property. The husband and wife (or the partners) jointly hire the mediator to assist by providing legal information to both and to act, not as the attorney for either or both, but to set up a framework for the discussion. During a series of meetings, the couple and the mediator work out a mutually satisfactory plan covering the children’s living arrangements (if minor children are involved), the financial needs of each member of the family, the home, and other assets of the parties. Both parties are free, and even encouraged, to consult with a lawyer or other advisor at any time. The process is designed to reduce the adversarial element often encountered in a divorce proceeding, and also to save time and money, as well as to involve both parties in the entire process.
When agreement is reached, the mediator will write those provisions into a draft settlement for the parties to review before signing. Each party will have an opportunity to review the document with his or her own attorney, and such review is highly encouraged, but not absolutely essential.
The Requirement of Commitment
The Mediation process will work only if the parties are both willing to make a good faith effort to reach agreement. There is no legal obligation to agree; any commitment to the process and its result come voluntarily from the people involved.
The Benefits of Mediation
The mediation process can be significantly less expensive and less painful for the family than the protracted battles which are often a part of divorce or separation process. Studies indicate that when children are involved, agreements reached by the parties are usually far better for the children than those imposed by court order. The structured process allows the parties to establish their own goals and design for themselves, with help, the best way to use their own resources.
The Cost of Mediation
I charge $250 per hour for my services as mediator. Normally, after the terms are worked out, an agreement is drawn up by the mediator. Fees for preparing the agreement are also $250 per hour. My own experience, however, is that many couples already have worked out some, or even most, of the settlement terms. Under these circumstances, if the couple prefers, I will prepare the agreement as the negotiations proceed. Many couples find that this saves the mediator time, and therefore saves them money. All fees, including fees for the preparation of the draft agreement, are expected to be paid in full prior to the clients’ receipt of the draft of the agreement. The draft agreement will be modified as mutually agreed by the parties, or by their attorneys.
SOME OBSERVATIONS ABOUT MEDIATION
The family usually knows better than anyone else what is best for its members.
When spouses can decide for themselves, their is a reduction in feelings of frustration, anger and helplessness.
When spouses can talk and listen to each other, each feels less threatened by the other.
Self-determination, rather than orders imposed by a court, reduces conflict and increases the chance for compliance with a plan developed by the parties themselves.
When parents can reduce their conflict over any issue, their children benefit.
People will change during and after the divorce. A plan worked out by them can be more flexible in adapting to their changed circumstances.
By hiring a mediator to help them work out an agreement, parents can save themselves time, money and frustration.
Based on material of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, and reports from many satisfied couples, couples who have undergone the mediation process would highly recommend the process to other couples.