First, what is Mediation?
In short, mediation is a way to resolve your disputes outside of the courtroom. Instead of leaving it up to a total stranger (a judge) to decide what happens to your kids and your finances, you and your partner make those decisions, together.
The cornerstones of mediation are
1) it is voluntary; and
2) it is confidential.
What does that mean? No one can force you to mediate. You do not have to do it if you do not want to. Also, mediation is confidential. This means that you cannot later subpoena the mediator to have them testify to what was said. You also cannot testify to what your partner said during mediation. Why is this beneficial? Knowing you are operating in a “cone of silence” you don’t need to be worried about what you say to your partner (or how) and instead can focus all of your efforts and mental energy on resolving the matter at hand. (So, no, not everything said “can and will be used against you in a court of law.” No Miranda rights issues here!)
Do I need to bring my lawyer?
That is up to you. I have found that most mediations tend to be more successful without lawyers present. However, this is not always the case as each matter and each case is unique. Not all families are created the same, therefore not all families are going to resolve their differences in the same way either.
What should we expect?
Typically, my mediation sessions last 2 hours at a time. When counsel is present, sessions last closer to 3-4 hours. We all meet together in the same room (or the same Zoom room) unless and until communication begins to break down and we are no longer having a productive session. In that event, we begin to “caucus.” What does that mean? I put you each in a different room (or Zoom room) and shuffle between the two of you until we can get to an agreement. This sometimes needs to happen when one party needs to “vent” and the mediator finds it is more productive for the mediator to hear the venting and help the party determine their goal so we can get back on task. The mediator can then take that goal to the other party, without the added venting which can sometimes be prohibitive to mediation if the other party does not want to hear it (or is sick of hearing it). Once we are back on track, I bring us all back together at the end and restate the agreement to make sure we are all on the same page.
I don’t expect either of you to be “perfect.” There is no perfect! You are going through one of the hardest times of your life. I just ask you to show up.
Once we are done with the first session, I will send you an email with a bullet point list of what we settled, as well as homework for the next session.
If we do not settle all issues in that first session, we schedule another 2-hour session, typically with homework given to both parties. We continue to operate in this fashion until we have settled all issues. At that time, you will be given the choice of whether you wish for your attorney to draw up an Agreement, or if you will hire me to draft your Mediated Settlement Agreement.
Are you meeting in person or virtually?
For the time being (and for so long as we are wearing masks), I conduct all of my mediation sessions using Zoom. No one else should be in the room with you during these Zoom sessions (especially your kids!). If you are mediating with your counsel present, it is up to you if you will be together, or “Zoom in” separately.
Once we all feel safe again, you will have the choice of virtual or in-person. My office is in Phoenix, Maryland (Four Corners) with plenty of parking and is quite peaceful.
How should we prepare?
My number one tip is to come with an open mind as oftentimes the best way to settle a case is outside of the box. I also encourage clients to work on the “furniture and stuff” and who gets what pot and who gets what pan outside of mediation. You do not want to pay me or your lawyer to deal with this.
What should we bring?
We will set the agenda together during our first mediation session. If you know we will need to talk about child support or alimony, you each will need to bring income information. If you know we will need to talk about retirement assets, you each will need to bring recent account statements. If you know we will need to talk about your home(s), you will need to know the mortgage due on the home, the monthly payment, and have an idea of what your home is worth.
Do you have any rules?
Simply to be respectful. While interruption of one another is typical (and sometimes raised voices as well), my only true “rule” is no name-calling, that is where I draw the line. I can handle yelling, but I cannot tolerate bullying or demeaning behavior and I will call you on this and perhaps ask that we take a recess or caucus so we can continue to move forward.
What does it cost?
My rate is $365.00 per hour. I block out mediations in 2-hour blocks of time and request $730.00 to be paid upfront. If we go over the 2 hours, you will be invoiced. Typically, the parties split these fees. However, there have been times when the spouse who has a higher income pays in full or a greater percentage.
We are ready to book! What next?
Fantastic! I am incredibly honored to work with you and your partner/spouse/child’s parent, etc. The fact you both have already agreed to mediation speaks volumes with regard to your character and your goal to reach an amicable resolution. The fact you have agreed to mediation means you have already reached your first mini agreement! This bodes incredibly well for you (and likely your checkbook as well). As we say in our industry, divorcing parties have a choice to make. Do you want to pay for your lawyer’s kids to go to college or your own? Deciding to mediate likely means you are paying yourselves first and foregoing expensive litigation.
Please click here to book your first 2-hour slot. Please be sure to put your partner’s name and e-mail in the notes section there. From there, I will send you and your partner an Agreement to Mediate.
I look forward to working with you.
Opinions and conclusions in this post are solely those of the author unless otherwise indicated. The information contained in this blog is general in nature and is not offered and cannot be considered as legal advice for any particular situation. The author has provided the links referenced above for information purposes only and by doing so, does not adopt or incorporate the contents.