There are several ways mediation can be used to assist in the settlement of conflicts. Mediation can be accessed at any time in family law and divorce cases. If agreement is reached between the parties, documents can be signed and submitted to the courts for approval of a Judge. Mediation can also be accessed when a case has already been filed with the court. This is helpful in limiting the issues you are asking the judge to decide. Basically, mediation can be personalized to your individual needs.
We don’t even know what we need to decide. Can we still mediate?
Don’t worry, your experienced mediator will take you through the process step-by-step. They will explain what decisions you will need to make regarding parenting and support. We can advise on how to get your assets valued and all the appropriate paperwork you need to collect and present.
Is an agreement from mediation still enforceable?
Once both parties have reached an agreement the mediator will draft the paperwork to be filed with the court. The court will review the proceedings, and, in most cases, approve them. After the Judge has signed the documents they are as enforceable as if the decisions were made in court.
What happens if we can’t agree?
In most cases full agreement can reached between the parties. However, if only partial agreement is reached the court can be asked to decide on the remaining issues. If no agreement is reached through the mediation process, the case can be submitted to the court for resolution. It is important to state that discussions in mediation are strictly confidential, therefore, any settlement discussions or offers cannot be revisited in court. The nature and structure of mediation sessions provides an opportunity for parties to gain some understanding of each party’s viewpoint on the issue in dispute.
Is my case too complicated for mediation?
One of the many benefits of meditation is time. Exploring all the issues relating to the case, parenting, financial complexities, the need for experts in tax, real estate etc takes time and the time allotted to the court hearings are short. The case may even be protracted over a period of several months, with the judge hearing only small parts at a time. With mediation there is no time limit. If there are complex financial issues these can be addressed in a timelier manner. Parental issues can be addressed, if necessary, involving therapists, doctors and school advocates. Mediation has proved more valuable in complicated cases because time is not limited. Mediation can be a better course for parties to reach a more amicable agreement and are not left feeling that the ‘wrong’ decisions have been made.
How will I know if what the other party is offering is “fair”?
Mediation allows both parties to work through their issues in a way that the court cannot. What is considered fair is different for each family’s circumstances. Mediation aims to ensure that parties come away from the final session feeling that a ‘fair’ settlement has been reached. Some clients are concerned that what they are agreeing to is legal. All mediators counsel that it is important to have your own attorney and to let them review the final agreement before it is signed. In some cases, it is helpful to speak with an attorney before the sessions to be clear about your legal rights and responsibilities. The role of the mediator is to be impartial, therefore, bear in mind that the mediator can speak about the law in broad terms but cannot act for either party.
Do I need a lawyer?
No, many clients chose to go through the mediation process because they want to avoid engaging attorneys. However, we always recommend that they meet with an attorney before they sign the final agreement, but that decision is up to you. Some clients prefer to have an attorney with them to help with the decision process. This can be helpful to keep the process moving forward especially if some disputes are complicated. Ultimately, how lawyers are utilized in the process is up to you.
What if our dispute is not a “legal” one?
Mediation is a dynamic, structured and interactive process that can be utilized across a variety of domains, not just divorce. Mediation has been used to settle disputes in areas such as: eldercare; harassment; personal injury; HOAs; wrongful termination; school conflicts and more.
How long does it take?
Clients often want to know how long the mediation will take to reach a satisfactory conclusion. There is no set formula to completion. Closure depends on a number of factors; your pre-mediation agreements; how complex your financial situation and how quickly you both can come to an agreement. Typically, a case may take between three to five sessions, agreement may be reached in as little as month, or even up to a year. It really depends on the parties. The mediator will help to find a balance between a party that wants to get it over and completed, and another who needs more time.
I think we agree on almost everything. Do we still need mediation?
What mediation provides is a safe and comfortable environment to get down to even the smallest of details that may have been overlooked. Although you may agree in broad terms about your settlement there can emerge areas of disagreement that were not anticipated. Your mediator will have extensive experience in the identification of possible future conflicts. A contentious area can be the parenting schedule. For example, both parties agree that each party should be responsible for childcare for ‘one week’. Each party will need to be absolutely in no doubt what constitutes ‘a week’. Is it Monday to Friday or Saturday to Saturday? Clarification and agreed understanding are key to heading off any future issues.
We do not get along. Can we still do mediation?
Mediators are not new to this problem. Provisions have been successfully provided to accommodate parties who do not get along. Clients working in separate rooms or even arriving at different times can be built into the process. Each mediation can be tailored to meet the needs of both clients.