Divorce Mediation Frequently Asked Questions
What is Divorce Mediation?
Mediation is the process of using a third party attorney to help negotiate and compromise a win/win outcome for all.
Why Choose Divorce Mediation?
When using mediation, the goal is to help all parties and the family as a whole win. When using litigation, each attorney is looking for a win/lose outcome. The attorneys fight for their client’s rights whereas for the mediator the family is the client, resulting in a win/win. When using the litigation approach, the impact is a more costly and time consuming process with a tremendous negative emotional impact on the parents and the children.
How is mediation different from collaborative divorce?
Mediation is the negotiating of a divorce settlement or other dispute such as parenting issues using a single attorney mediator. The attorney mediator is trained to help the parties work together to develop solutions to all of the issues without the involvement of separate lawyers. This saves the cost of separate lawyers for both parties. Collaborative divorce involves each party having their own attorney for those who want to have a separate attorney.
Does it make sense to have children at mediation sessions?
Children should not be at the mediation sessions with the parents. If there are issues with the children, the divorce coach, who is a trained mental health professional, can work with the family to address these specific needs and concerns. Remember they are the victims of the separation and divorce and allowing them to have a voice in the process can make a huge difference in their lives because they usually feel most things are out of their control.
Children do not want to pick one parent over the other and they feel uncomfortable about talking about this, is it really good to get them involved?
Having the child discuss their feelings in a safe and secure environment, without fear of retribution, can make a difference in helping them move past any emotional issues. It helps them be a part of the solution and feel better about their future because now they feel more in control. This should be done wi
How long does divorce mediation take and how long are the sessions?
Each session generally runs for an hour and a half and on average the entire process takes between 4 to 6 sessions.
How much does mediation cost?
Our fees are reasonable and at a fraction of the cost of an attorney. We charge hourly and get paid at the beginning of each session .
How do I get started?
We offer a free phone consultation to help you determine if mediation is right for you. Contact us for more information or to schedule a consultation.
Is it possible to get an unwilling party to try mediation?
There are various emotional stages that each party has to deal with internally before accepting their situation. Time can improve the situation or involving the party in our free consultation may help them understand the benefits of working in a cooperative way.
Can I use an attorney during Divorce Mediation?
You always have the option of using a separate attorney during the process. However, because of the adversarial nature of divorce attorneys, it is possible for them to easily undo all the work completed during mediation. We do recommend that you use independent counsel to review the final agreement. We can recommend one for you at the end of the process to review the agreement before signing.
At the end of mediation, will we be divorced?
You will receive a settlement agreement which will be submitted to the court. Once signed and accepted by the court, you will be legally divorced.
Do I need to bring anything to the first mediation session?
We will provide you with a form that will ask general questions regarding financials and family information.
Collaborative Divorce Frequently Asked Question
Why would I use Collaborative Divorce instead of Mediation?
In some cases the parties cannot get along well enough to participate in a Divorce Mediation. If that is the case, there is another more peaceful way to accomplish a fair divorce. In Collaborative Divorce, the parties each have an attorney who is protecting them. While collaborative attorneys are trained in meditation techniques, it is very rare that clients in mediation have their advocates in the room with their mediators. The mediator does not represent either party, but the parties are encouraged to seek a review of their final agreement from their independent attorneys. In the collaborative process, clients attend a series of meetings accompanied by their attorneys; by their coaches; and/or by any other member of the collaborative team. The goal of the process is to create a global settlement in writing that meets the needs of the children and of the parents; a resolution acceptable to both spouses.
What is collaborative practice and what is the collaborative team?
Collaborative practice is a model for dispute resolution in which separated and divorcing couples, each represented by independent, specially trained attorneys, creatively reach agreement on all relevant issues without going to court and without threatening to do so. Collaborative divorce is a team approach often involving mental health professionals ("divorce coaches" and "child specialists"), and financial specialists all of whom agree to use neutral appraisers rather than appraisers favored by one party or the other. A primary goal of the collaborative model is to avoid the acrimony and trauma of subjecting the spouses and their children to the terrible stress and expense that comes with a divorce that is litigated in the courts.
Do collaborative attorneys still zealously advocate for their clients?
Absolutely. Any good attorney knows that a negotiated settlement must work for both parties. Indeed, both parties must feel that they have “gotten” something (even if not everything) they needed. The role of the collaborative professional is to evoke the true needs and understand each party’s deepest concerns, helping a couple to develop resolutions that fall within a “range of reasonably acceptable options.” Our goal as attorneys is to “zealously” advocate. We can zealously advocate without being adversarial. Zealous advocacy does not mean the other spouse leaves the process with nothing, but rather that each spouse feels satisfied with his or her result.
What kind of information will be disclosed?
With the exception of depositions under oath (which is not completely taboo), ALL documents and information typically exchanged in the traditional court based process is produced voluntarily. The parties will have to sign Financial Affidavits swearing under oath as to their income and assets, as well as liabilities. Because the Court may not accept your agreement without a sworn Financial Affidavit, it has to be done in the collaborative divorce process as well (and in a mediation). You will generally bring with you all of your financial statements such as bank accounts, investment accounts, mortgages, insurance, tax returns and other documents showing your income and expenses. Businesses, licenses, degrees, pensions, real estate and all other property is valued by neutral appraisers, specifically trained in the collaborative model. It is not uncommon for “ranges” in values to be established so that clients themselves can customize appropriate resolutions. The key to the collaborative process is that both parties agree to accurately and honestly disclose all assets, income and liabilities.
Why would I choose the collaborative divorce over mediation?
Some people, for various reasons, are uncomfortable negotiating against his or her spouse without help of an attorney by his or her side. In the collaborative process, that help is right there; in the room; with the client every step of the way. While a mediator may provide some legal information, he or she does not advise either client. In a collaborative four way settlement meeting , it is common for both clients and for both attorneys to brainstorm as many options as possible. Once all of the options for each of the issues have been discussed, parties are typically in a better position to engage in a productive “give and take” in reaching an agreement, acceptable to both.
How is collaborative divorce different from a conventional divorce?
There is a big difference between a settlement that is negotiated during the conventional litigation process and one that takes place in the collaborative divorce process that prohibits court involvement or even the threat of court. Most conventional family law matters settle at the last minute before or during the trial. By that time, a great deal of money has been spent and emotional damage caused. The process is, for the most part driven by mutual coercion and fear which is why so many settlements occur just prior to trial. The settlements are often reached under conditions of considerable tension and anxiety and as a result are not done in consideration of important factors and do not provide for the proper support for the two parties. If the court makes a decision in your case, you have little control over what happens to you, your children and your property and often is not an ideal outcome for either party.
In contrast, the collaborative process is geared from the very beginning to make it possible for creative, respectful collective problem solving to occur. It is often quicker, often less costly, more individualized, less stressful, and almost invariably more satisfying. At its best, it is a process driven by mutual understanding and willingness to cooperate.
What guarantees are there that all assets will be disclosed in the collaborative process?
While there are no guarantees about anything in a mediation or the collaborative process, both require the parties to honestly disclose all assets, income and liabilities. Because each party has to submit a sworn affidavit to the court before their agreement will be accepted, a party intending to lie and hide assets or income during the divorce will also have to swear under oath to the court that all such information has been fully disclosed. If it is later found that a party did not disclose an asset or income, the court can re-open the case on the basis of fraud and can order the fraudulent party to pay the innocent party's legal fees as well as make a distribution order with respect to the assets that were not disclosed.
Collaborative practice may not be for everyone. It is not always cheaper; it is not always quicker. The ultimate agreement however, is almost always better. Divorcing couples learn new ways to communicate in a manner that allows them to be better parents, better role models and often friends. The result is happier, more well-grounded children in healthier reconstructed families.
Is a collaborative divorce cheaper than a traditional divorce? Is it faster?
While there are no guarantees, the collaborative divorce process avoids the often wasteful and unnecessary hours of motions being filed, objections to the motions, hearings on the motions, nasty letters between attorneys, waiting in the halls of the courthouse while many other cases are called, and filing of appeals. Since the clients determine the frequency and timing of meetings, the pace is set by them and not by a judge handling hundreds of other matters. Obviously, cases with fewer issues take less time and cost less to complete. Even more complex cases, which will typically take more time and cost more money, are handled more efficiently than the traditional, court based model.
Doesn't the collaborative divorce cost more because of the "coaches" and "financial experts" that are used?
While there can be some expense for the coaches and financial experts, not every case needs these people involved in their case. What is beneficial about the collaborative process is that the parties with the guidance of their attorney can decide what resources to involve. The coaches are not necessary for each case, but when there is tremendous tension, they are expert at resolving disputes so the parties can move forward on the legal issues. Likewise, the financial experts are very good at moving quickly through the financial information and determining the value of assets such as pension plans, stock options, and investments. They are also very good at valuing businesses, or finding the right person to value the business. If this was done in a litigation environment in court, each party would hire their own expert to value the assets and there are usually extensive conflicts between the experts and the attorneys. The financial expert and coaches are only involved in the process to the extent necessary and are not "on the clock" for the whole process.
For whom is collaborative divorce the proper process choice?
A collaborative divorce works best for:
Collaborative practice is NOT a process for people destined to destroy their families and those seeking to punish and/or obtain revenge.
A Peaceful Resolution