Frequently Asked Questions
Family & divorce mediation services can be arranged during all phases of a divorce.
What is Mediation?
Mediation is a process in which a neutral party facilitates conversations and helps people come to agreements. Mediation is used when people are separating, divorcing, having family disputes, problems at work, landlord or tenant conflict, and issues with neighbours. Mediation helps resolve issues efficiently and for less money than going to court and often alleviates the need to go to court.
What Training Does Someone Need to Become a Mediator?
Most law schools and conflict resolution or alternative dispute resolution organizations offer the 40-hour course required for mediation training. Most divorce and family mediators have completed a divorce and family mediation training course, though general mediation training is also offered. Mediators may offer observation or supervision opportunities, though this is tricky since it is a confidential process. Professional mediators often train in the substantive issues of separation and divorce. Issues in the divorce may dictate whether a couple wants a mediator with attorney or mental health professional training.
Is a Mediated Agreement Binding?
The agreements reached in mediation are not binding until they are taken to court as part of the divorce agreement or an agreed order entered by the parties if mediation is on post-decree issues. Specific circumstances surrounding the case will dictate how this should best be handled. An attorney can best explain how this works. The court generally reviews the agreement to assure that it conforms to the standards for your state, such as the child support or maintenance guidelines and financial matters.
Is Mediation Confidential?
The mediator is bound by standards governing his or her profession and state law to maintain confidentiality of the process and issues discussed. Confidentiality will be discussed before the process begins and parties will sign a confidentiality agreement before beginning mediation.
If I Use Mediation, Will I Need to Go to Court?
Mediation for parenting time, allocation of parenting responsibilities and financial issues, if successful, will minimize the number of court appearances. The agreements reached in mediation will be incorporated into necessary pleadings to complete the divorce process. Hopefully the prove-up of the divorce will be the only court appearance necessary if all issues are mediated.
What Should I Know About a Mediator Before Choosing One?
You have the right to interview a mediator before choosing one you are comfortable using. Things to consider include: (1) professional training, background and years of experience, (2) fee structure, cost, number and length of meetings, (3) knowledge about specific issues you need to resolve, (4) professional network in case others are needed to assist and (5) professional affiliations or memberships.
What Will Mediation Cost and How Long Are the Sessions?
The cost of mediation will be based on an hourly fee and initial retainer. Overall cost depends on how well you can do homework in between sessions and communicate during and between meetings. Fees will be charged for all mediation sessions, time spent drafting an agreement summarizing mediation and reviewing documents, telephone calls, e-mails, and communication between the mediator and your attorneys or other professionals. Typically mediation sessions last from 1-1/2 to 2 hours, depending on the couple’s specific situation, urgency, work and family schedules. The cost of mediation is significantly less than if you each hired an attorney to represent you in your divorce without using mediation.
How Often Will We Meet with the Mediator?
This depends on the style and practice of the specific mediator you choose. The mediator should schedule meetings that accommodate your schedule, goals for yourself, your family and desired time-frame for your divorce. On the phone or in person, you will identify the issues that need to be decided in the case of separation or divorce and make decisions about timing with the mediator.
Who is Present During Mediation?
Most sessions will include you, your spouse and the mediator. Occasionally couples wish to include their attorneys in a meeting where financial matters will be discussed. This is called attorney-assisted mediation. On occasion, the mediator may wish to speak with each of you privately (and confidentially).
What Information Must I Disclose to my Spouse and the Mediator?
Mediation requires that discovery be completed in an informal way. Instead of filing court pleadings to obtain information, financial information will be disclosed and verified during the mediation process. The mediator will assist to determine your income, expenses, assets, liabilities, retirement accounts, all of which required as part of the divorce. For parenting or custody issues during pre-decree or post-decree mediation, it may not be necessary to provide financial information.
What is Discussed During Mediation?
Typically, the issues that must be resolved in a divorce include:
- Children: parenting time and allocation of parenting responsibilities, living arrangements, health insurance, child support, activities and homework, among other issues
- Assets and Debts: detailing how these will be divided before divorce or afterwards
- Property: marital home, retirement accounts, cars and other personal property
- Spousal Support: whether it applies and, if so, length and duration
- Health and Life Insurance: who provides it, who pays for it and for how long